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Saga "An Old Song Re-Sung", The Celtic Song Challenge, Anakin Skywalker Short Story - Complete 5/06!

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Mira_Jade , Feb 4, 2017.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Title: “An Old Song Re-Sung”
    Author: Mira_Jade

    Time Frame: Episodes III – IV
    Genre: Angst, Family
    Characters: Anakin Skywalker/Padmé Amidala, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke & Leia Skywalker, Ensemble Cast

    Summary: Even as Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker dreams.


    Notes: This was written for the Celtic Song Challenge, where I received the haunting classic: "Down by the Salley Gardens", based on W. B. Yeats' poem of the same name. That immediately screamed Anakin to my muse, and what was supposed to be a one-shot quickly rambled out of control and shot past 12,000 words - and I'm still adding to that number. So, I decided to post it in segments rather than bombard anyone who is interested in reading with too many words. The title of this is taken from Yeats' original name for the poem - aptly chosen, since he pieced the words together to recreate an old song he couldn't completely remember. I found further inspiration in that.

    This should be about six parts, in total, so let's get started. :)


    Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.






    Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
    She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
    She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
    But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

    In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
    And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
    She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
    But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.






    I.

    Always, Anakin Skywalker had dreamed. More than stray thoughts or fragments of memory reconstructed by his mind during the unwaking hours, his dreams were tangible. They were things previously unseen, seen, with the Force coursing through its chosen vessel to overfilling, and then spilling over to give birth to visions.

    As a child, he'd dreamed of freedom and the skies, of fresh cool air and liberty. He dreamed of returning home to the barren world of his birth and breaking the same chains on others that he himself had escaped. Visions, he'd heard said so many times that he thought to understand, came true in their own way, in their own time. Ever in motion, the future is. Yet, unlike most of his premonitions, this was a vision that never came to fruition, and he could not imagine it coming true from his hands now. Perhaps, that truly was a child's dream; the time in his life for useless deeds of service and self-sacrifice had passed.

    As a man just over the crest of adulthood, he'd dreamed of his mother dying. Even in the black shell of quasi-sentience he currently inhabited, the outcome of that particular premonition was something he still cared to think of but little. He did not . . . he could not imagine what Shmi Skywalker would say as to the path he'd chosen, and so, he did not long entertain the thought. He put it far from his mind.

    No matter his age, throughout the entirety of his life, he dreamed of her. Night to night bound them together and forged their connection while neither of them were truly aware of the power at work between them. Once, he had foolishly thought that to be the will of the Force, so much so that when he was finally introduced to her again he felt as if he'd known her for a lifetime. Even she, with her remarkable sensitivity to the Force falling short of a Jedi's acute awareness, had admitted to a similar such feeling. For the brief span of their marriage, on days when he doubted - when he felt the burden of worry guilt over the forbidden nature of their union - he remembered that, and found his footing on solid ground once more.

    So, when he closed his eyes at night and saw her die . . . when he saw her pain and felt her agony, with the Force twisting around him in an effort to prompt him into action . . . compelling . . . urging . . . pleading . . .

    . . . well, he had always dreamed. From there, he knew when to listen; he knew when to act.

    And so . . . act he had.



    .

    .

    Yet, still . . . Anakin Skywalker dreamed.



    .

    .

    At first, deep in the space station's rotation of artificial night, his unwaking eyes saw a memory.

    It was an old memory, now - one so intimately burned into his consciousness that he could not doubt it for anything else. He remembered the dream that started it all, of course: his wife writhing in pain, suffering - dying - as she cried for him to save her. Although he'd only known of his impending fatherhood for mere hours, already the sound of an infant's cries – wailing in fear to echo their mother's pain, and not in the simple way that babies cried – roused a previously unknown instinct, deep within himself. Once loosed from its bonds, that hungry instinct urged him to defend and protect, furiously so. He remembered awakening with his heart racing, pounding out a furious tattoo behind his rib cage as he tried to calm his breathing. Normally, his wife's bed was a place of comfort to him – one of the few havens where he could sleep deeply and without fear of remembered dreams. But, that night . . .

    . . . Anakin sucked in a deep breath, and pinched the bridge of his nose with his organic hand. Out of habit, he gently reached out with his senses to make sure that Padmé was still sleeping. With a tentative sort of awe flaring within him, he next brushed a brief Force-stroke over the dreaming consciousnesses she held within her womb. His children. For a breathless moment, the hazy sort of contact he felt in return calmed him, but only just.

    Not wanting to disturb his wife – she was now deep into her third trimester and resting for the entirety of his family, after all – he slipped from their room and headed towards the common area of the apartment. There, he stared out at the pre-dawn traffic and listened to the quiet murmur of the fountain in the center of the ring of sofas. The stars were impossible to see on Coruscant, but reflected lights from the air-lanes danced on the silver spires in flashing patterns of iridescent mercury; uniquely beautiful in its own way. Beautiful, he admitted, but not fitting for his intended purpose. He let his eyes glaze over the play of light, and instead focused on the whispering sound of the running water. Though he ever had to work to develop the patience for meditation, he understood its purpose and appreciated its power as he let the natural cadence of the water sooth him. He tried to clear his mind, quieting his thoughts and focusing only on his outward senses - so much so that he could not help but hear the faint sound of Padmé's bare feet as she slipped across the floor to join him. His absence awakened her anyway.

    Her hands were so small as she rested them against his chest, he thought next. He rarely considered his wife as delicate - how could he, when such a light burned within her? To his senses, she was one of the rare beings that illuminated all around her in the eyes of the Force - the beacon of her spirit shed a light on his own depths, even, bettering the worst parts of himself. Yet, in that moment . . .

    “You die in childbirth,” he had finally whispered when prompted, and she stepped back as if absorbing a blow. Her hands fell to her swollen stomach to ask, “and, the babies?” with a mother's instinctive defense for a perceived threat to her child.

    A heartbeat passed. One, and then two. “I don't know.” The admittance tore at something deep within him, and he had to concentrate on the soft babbling of the fountain once again. He closed his eyes to the rhythm of the water, and felt the low thrum of the vast city planet at sleep. He could feel the unique throb of its pulse, with its graceful skyscrapers stacked high atop centuries of compressed generations in its rotting underbelly beneath. Beauty and decay . . . new and old . . . life and death. Against it all, the little stream of water stubbornly flowed.

    When he folded his arms about his wife, she tucked in against him, conscious of the weight of her stomach and shifting so that she could embrace him properly. Feeling her, feeling them, Anakin could not help but hold on tighter.

    No . . . no, he thought quietly. This was his, something of his very own, and there was not a force in the universe that could take them from him. He would not allow it.

    “Perhaps . . . ” when she spoke, Padmé's voice was very small. She whispered into his skin; he could feel the warmth of her breath. “Don't you think it's time to tell Obi-Wan, at least? If this is a vision, and not a dream, then maybe . . . maybe he could help us?”

    We do not need him for this,” he had said – this he remembered clearly. “Our babies are a blessing,” he had firmly declared . . . as if Obi-Wan Kenobi would see them as anything but a physical manifestation of his weakness and failure as a Jedi. He had presumed with such confidence then, all to arrogantly hide the depths of his own fears. Yet, if he'd chosen differently . . .

    For, in this particular dream, he instead felt as the scared little boy who'd held his mother as she died and thought - knew, even: I could have saved her . . . I could have prevented this if I trusted my instincts. If I would have just listened . . . He would never feel that helpless again, even if that meant he had to . . .

    “I'll tell him first thing in the morning,” Anakin found himself agreeing instead. “It's time he knew, and . . .” if there's the slightest chance that he can help me save you, then I'll take it. I'll do what must be done, he thought but did not say. He focused on that, and only that – refusing to acknowledge the roiling, queasy sort of anxiety he felt for the idea of disappointing his former Master . . . again. To see that all too familiar look in his eyes, to know that the imperfect Padawan had once again faltered when he was supposed to be the saving grace of all . . .

    But, no . . . no. He was going to be a father – a father, the novelty of that was still a moving power of its own. He would not welcome his children into the world at the cost of their mother. He refused to - it was that simple. With that thought firmly in mind, he held his wife close, and waited for the dawn.



    .

    .

    Obi-Wan only allowed a second of disappointment and tired, tired acceptance to show on his face before he carefully schooled his features in an expression of calm serenity. It truly was a dream, Anakin thought, when instead of lectures and the bristling, barbed words he was expecting from a Master of the Order, Obi-Wan wrapped his arms around him and pulled him close in an embrace.

    At first, he dumbly stood there, shocked and uncertain in his response. Even between masters and apprentices, there were few displays of physical affection ever shown – attachments, even in a teaching form, were cautioned against, and he had gone from a child secure in the knowledge of his mother's love to constantly guessing and yearning without truly knowing. Anakin had not realized just how hungry he was for such a simple expression of sentient affection until he was offered it, and then . . .

    He surprised himself with just how tightly he returned the embrace. He did not understand the weight of his emotions until his eyes burned, and something that had too long been building deep inside of him wavered as a strong wall about to collapse. No doubt feeling the turbulence of his emotions, Obi-Wan merely held on tighter. Anakin drew in a deep, shuddering breath, and felt it catch in his lungs.

    When Obi-Wan finally drew away enough to speak, it was with a wondrous, dumbfounded sort of expression still softening the planes of his face. “You're going to have a child?” he repeated, clearly struggling to make sense of the idea in his mind. He ran a hand through his hair. For a moment, he looked unsteady on his feet.

    “Two,” Anakin found himself loosing a raw sort of laugh to correct. “Twins.”

    “Twins,” Obi-Wan breathed. And then: “Twins,” he was stronger to say.

    A long moment of silence passed, and Anakin allowed it to go without words. He knew that it was a lot to process, and he felt that familiar mixture of shame and worry guilt that it had taken him this long to tell Obi-Wan in the first place. So much so that: “Does this mean . . .” he struggled to assign words to an impossible depth of feeling. “Are you - ”

    “ - oh, don't misread me: of course I'm mad,” Obi-Wan did not let him complete his sentence. Even so, Anakin did not feel anger from him – not true anger, at least. There was disappointment and frustration, yes, all bound together by a smarting, bruised sort of pain that he had not been trusted with this knowledge beforehand. ”I'm furious, even, that you didn't tell me sooner. You've born this on your shoulders for years now, alone while fighting this dreadful war. I . . . I could have helped you . . . I could have - ”

    “ - talked me out of it?” Anakin managed a wry expression to interject.

    “Perhaps,” Obi-Wan allowed without any true sort of conviction. “I do not need to lecture you about the Code, and you already well know what the Council will say. So I will not insult your intelligence with that."

    Years of religiously chanting the Code and swallowing the dogmas of the Jedi as absolute truths taught Anakin to wince at the words. There is no emotion; there is no passion; there is no chaos. But how did he explain that through emotion, he felt peace . . . that through passion, he found serenity . . . that in the violent chaos of the war she was his reason for harmony? For years, he'd tried to give his emotions over to the Force, to simply be and exist as a vessel for it to guide, and yet, when he did so . . .

    . . . my mother, a part of Anakin's spirit still mourned; the guilt of that was still enough to overwhelm him. If he had existed with his emotions, rather than burying them to be the proper Jedi that prophesy needed him to be . . .

    . . . would the way he felt be so dangerously close to swallowing him now?

    It was a heretic stance to take; his merely indulging such thoughts dubbed him as worthy of expulsion from the Jedi Order. Yet, once thought, it was an idea - a growing certainty - that he could not so easily cast aside.

    He wondered what Obi-Wan was thinking, then - a part of him foolishly hoped that he understood, even slightly, what he was going through. After everything they had endured, after everything they had seen on the frontlines . . . didn't a small part of him ever wonder, and through that wondering doubt?

    . . . or, was Anakin alone in that imperfection, as well?

    "Yet, Anakin . . .” Obi-Wan finally wrestled with a decision, deep within himself. “Though it should not, though it goes against everything we are taught . . . for the first time in far too long this is something that feels right. If you would have brought this to my attention before the war, I fear that I know what I would have said . . . but the war has happened, and it . . . it has clouded so much. Everything the Jedi touch seems to cast a shadow as of late, and sensing the right path has been all but impossible – even for the most powerful amongst us. But this . . . this is only light. I want to trust that light, believe me I do. And yet . . .”

    . . . the brightest of lights cast the darkest of shadows. That too Anakin could feel, and that too Anakin knew well to fear. For that, more so than anything else, he had held his tongue for the past three years. But, now . . .

    The shadow then felt further away than every before – hazy, even. Against his senses, he could feel a shifting of balance. In that moment, he felt more certain of his place in the ebb and flow of the Force than he ever had before. His fears did not feel so impossibly overwhelming then, no matter that they still had the ability to rob him of his breath when he dwelt on them for too long.

    Obi-Wan narrowed his eyes, and Anakin recognized the general and tactician emerging in his expression through the ease of long familiarity. The war had irrevocably changed them all, he knew, and water was ever attempting to find its level. This was a part of his personality that simply was, now. So, he waited, and quieted his mind to listen.

    “The chancellor has made a queer request – he wants you to be his representative on the Jedi Council,” Obi-Wan finally chose to reveal, keeping a careful eye on him to gauge his reaction. He frowned, as if there was more that he was required to say . . . and Anakin felt a strange relief pulse from him, as if Obi-Wan was thankful for what he now did not have to say.

    After his initial burst of but why would he want that? - perplexed as he was that the chancellor would insist on so obvious a hand in Jedi affairs when he already had more so than any holding the chancellery since the office was a Jedi-held office - the pride that Anakin felt was a deep, glowing warmth in his heart. To know that the leader of the free worlds saw something worthwhile in him - in him - was still a humbling, heady knowledge. To know that Sheev Palpatine felt an affection for the former slave boy from a far flung corner of the Outer Rim – an affection that he had latched onto and trusted to sustain him during the worst days of his adolescence, when he struggled to make the Jedi way his own - it assured him as much as it succored him, so much so that -

    - yet . . . his wife, he reminded himself. His children. With the threat hanging so obviously over them, he knew what he had to do.

    “Though I am honored by the chancellor's consideration,” Anakin carefully chose his words, “I cannot accept his offer at this time.” Though he did not yet know just how his vision would transpire, he knew this for a certainty: he would stay by his wife's side until the twins were born. For years, he had put his duty to the Order and the Republic first in his life, but now . . .

    . . . she was his duty too . . . she and his children, and he would not fail them. Not like he had his mother.

    Obi-Wan nodded; clearly, he had anticipated his answer. “We will tell him that you are on leave from the Order, then – the Force has shown you a vision, and you have gone to find the answer . . . which is not truly a lie. Before the war, such a pilgrimage would have been a common enough occurrence so as to not raise any suspicion.” He gave a sardonic sort of smile, but there was a sadness about his eyes to say so – for the Jedi had veered so far from their core purpose over the past few years that it was growing all the more difficult to remember back and think on what they once were. At times, even Anakin wondered how they would find their balance again.

    But, that was a thought for another time. Before that could happen, they still had the rest of the war to fight in the here and now.

    For that thought, Anakin struggled with what he knew in his heart was right, and that which his honor demanded he see through to its conclusion. The war was not quite done with them yet, and to leave such a task unfinished, when all was so close to -

    “ - but, with Grievous still at large,” he found himself voicing his thoughts aloud, “don't you need me to - ”

    “ - trust me to take care of the good general alone,” Obi-Wan gave a tight smile to assure him. There was a hardness in the blue of his eyes that had not been there before the war, lining his gaze with steel. “I will finish what we've started, Anakin. His time has come; I can sense it.”

    With Count Dooku dead – and that was something else he needed to admit to and speak about, to exorcise the rage and satisfaction that had accompanied his execution of the man – and Grievous too eliminated, the Separatists would have lost their two key military players in the conflict. After that, it would only be a matter of time to clean up all of the loose ends from the remaining leaders of the Confederacy . . . and, with the war's end . . .

    . . . well, he and Padmé had already discussed coming clean about their relationship once their service during the Secession Crisis was over. Now, that time was nearly upon them.

    Strangely, he no longer felt fear for the idea . . . only peace . . . only acceptance.

    Yet, for that time to finally arrive, and his family to be fractured before they could even begin to enjoy the fruits of their efforts . . .

    “I . . .” Anakin found himself muttering, unsure of how to put his thoughts into words. “Obi-Wan,” he tried again, but he did not have to say anything more than that.

    “Dreams are fickle things, Anakin. It is impossible to tell how they will unfold, and, sometimes, our endeavoring to subvert them only ensures their fulfillment. We must be canny, and aware of our actions all the more so, Anakin. You must focus on the now, and trust in the light to guide you,” Obi-Wan rested his hands on his shoulders to say. “Please believe that we will protect your family - together. You do not have to do this alone; you are not alone.”

    For years, Anakin then knew with a ghosting sort of honesty, he'd felt as if he had been . . . but, even the memory of that time felt as a shadow, twisting and whispering to cast his certainties and beliefs underneath the pall of the dark. He frowned, feeling as if he was trying to move underneath a great weight, as if he was swimming up for the sunlight against the undertow of some great, black ocean. He wanted to breathe again, only, he was not quite sure how to take in air through his lungs.

    Mistrusted by the Council . . . imperfect as a Padawan . . . less than a Jedi and yet so much more, so much so that even I am scared of my own power at times . . . all too easily giving into my anger and fear and yearning and love -

    “ - is that . . . is that how you have felt, Anakin?”

    The training bond they'd long held as Master and Padawan had been sleeping for the last three years – roused only when it was needed in battle to make them a more cohesive unit in the thick of a fray. Now, Anakin found himself accessing it easier than he ever had before – as if it was meant to exist between them, just as it would have had Obi-Wan actually chosen him for himself, rather than grudgingly honoring the last wish of his dying Master in taking him under his wing. Anakin had not first realized just how much of himself he was pouring into the bond, and to feel those emotions returned, and instead countered by . . .

    . . . such a fondness, such a light – a warm, richly encompassing glow of pride and affection and love. That love was then twinged with dismay – with horror, even – that he had languished underneath such doubts and uncertainties for so long. For, how could he ever doubt what Obi-Wan himself knew to be a defining cornerstone of his own being? How could Obi-Wan have been blind to see, for so long . . .

    The same as a rising sun shining on a previously shadowed place, Anakin felt himself fill on the strength of the bond between them . . . and he let himself breathe. For a long moment, he could not speak – how could he, when there was so much more that needed to be said? There was not enough time to say it all - not then, not yet. But, for the time being, just that moment was enough.

    “I will not be party to a lie, Anakin,” at last, Obi-Wan gently pulled away to say. “But I will help protect your family until the time comes when it is safe to come out with the truth. Until then, trust me, please . . . as I trust you?”

    Trust . . . yes . . . he could trust his friend. After a pause, Anakin nodded, and when Obi-Wan embraced him once more he returned the affection like a child clinging to an older brother – to a father, even. In that moment, his hope was then stronger than his fear, and he held onto the grace of that benediction with all of the tenacity of a drowning man.

    . . . and, distantly, Anakin Skywalker continued to dream.



    ~MJ @};-
     
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  2. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    I am glad that your muse screamed "Anakin!" at you. You created a bitter-sweet dream here. All those things that could have happened if he really would have dropped his trust issues and his arrogance. Great contribution to the Celtic challenge!
     
  3. RX_Sith

    RX_Sith C&G Game Host star 5 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2006
    Awesome story with a different telling of the pregnancy news to Anakin trusting in Obi-Wan.
     
  4. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Feb 25, 2010
    First off, I loved the descriptions of Anakin’s dreams. At first I thought it was going to be Anakin dreaming within Vader - you portrayed that impending darkness so well, but then I saw that this wasn’t and where it took the turn to an AU and I am so happy and full of hope!

    What is this madness?!?! Anakin being sensible? I like it!

    AWWWW! I LOVE DADDY ANAKIN WHEN HE ISN’T BEING DUMB AND SITHY!

    Obi-Wan is still both friend and Jedi Master. I love the balance and duality.

    I’m really looking forward to the continuation of this.
     
  5. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Very lovely so far! I have to say (as indeed the others have said) that what you have here is a much nicer way of announcing Padmé's pregnancy to Anakin than what we got in ROTS. Obi-Wan's very calm "of course I'm mad" response is so pricelessly in character, and I can just hear Ewan MacGregor speaking those words! I love to how the story is highlighting not only the love between Anakin and Padmé (the love, of course, which arguably brings about his entire fall) but also the master-student friendship between him and Obi-Wan.

    Also as others have said, this definitely has that AU look to it, with Anakin thinking very hard about choosing Padmé and his new family over Palpatine. Buuut... we know how the song goes: "I was young and foolish, / And now am full of tears" (and I have to say, Anakin/Vader is pretty much the perfect choice for this song). Plus that very important reminder at the end that, in a way, everything in this story is part of Anakin's dream, whether before or after his fall. I will be curious to see how that dream plays out in this story, and to seeing how Anakin will resing this old song. Thanks so much for sharing, and for being part of this challenge! :)
     
  6. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    I thank-you, everyone, for the kind words and the likes! I'm glad that you are enjoying this so far.


    Bittersweet really will be the theme of this! I am glad that you are enjoying this. :)


    Because pulling out just that one thread changes so much. It's been fascinating to explore. [face_thinking]


    Oh, we are going to dive deep into an AU for the majority of this story. It's been such a fun idea to play with, and I hope that that hope continues for you! . . . for as long as it can, anyway. ;)

    ME TOO, ME TOO, ME TOO!! I feel awful for saying this: but RoTS Anakin ever gave me little sympathy just because he was so . . . well, dumb and Sithy. So many of his decisions - which I understood were made in fear and had the chancellor's fingerprints all over them, yada yada yada - could have been made better by applying simple logic, and would have produced a much better outcome for all involved. His *complete* fall ever felt rushed and OOC to me - even for Anakin, which is saying something! I've never really felt the urge to write about his struggles more in depth, however, until watching the Clone Wars cartoon, and going: THIS. This is my Anakin. I want all of the good things for him and Padmé, now. All of them.

    . . . and for Obi-Wan too. He deserves to be a doting uncle - 'nuff said. [face_love][face_love]

    I thank you for reading, though, and hope that you continue to enjoy! :)


    Thank-you! Obi-Wan has one of those voices that is so easy to slip into thanks to Ewan MacGregor's excellent delivery - I loved being able to give him an outlet, just as I loved giving him a chance to do the right thing by Anakin. Anakin has so many attachments binding his spirit - not just Padmé, though she is the defining relationship in his life - and I feel like exploring all of those ties is what really gives a dimension to Anakin's character . . . and it gives him a chance to make better choices, at that. [face_love] It's been an interesting dynamic to study, that's for sure!

    Oh, to be faithful to the song, we will definitely come back full circle after dipping into this AU - which is already breaking my heart as an author to plot! Originally, this was supposed to be a oneshot, containing the last two scenes that you guys will see . . . but then it grew . . . a lot. And it has spawned a potential alternate dimension hoping fix-it sequel with the twins and Made Jade from this verse that just may be consuming my life. But, more about that later. [face_mischief] Basically, I just wanted to say thank-you to you guys for hosting this challenge! The inner Celt in me has ran with it without looking back. ;)

    [:D]


    Alrighty, the next part will be up in a few! :)
     
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  7. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    II

    I can go to the Lake Country, and prepare a room for the babies . . . I already know the perfect spot, overlooking the gardens . . .

    In his dream, Anakin refused to let her go alone.

    Of her handmaidens, Moteé was left to stand in Padmé's place for when her presence was required in the Senate. As Moteé was just a physical decoy, however, the majority of Padmé's meetings were canceled and those that could not be rescheduled were passed to Jar Jar Binks. The Gungan sincerely promised to do his best by Naboo, and, in a strange way, Anakin had few worries for his oversight. His clumsiness had an unexpected habit of shaping galactic events for the better, and Anakin trusted the mysterious ways of the Force as it chose its favourites. Padmé demanded an up to date schedule of reports from the junior senator to keep her own mind at ease, but nonetheless hugged the gangly alien goodbye with a tight embrace. Jar Jar, delicate as he was in few things, was careful to fondly return the affection.

    Sabé, refusing to be left behind, tucked herself into her mistress' shadow as a devoted, silent protector. When trusted with the gravity of his premonitions, she accepted his visions without blinking an eye; she simply asked what she could do to keep his forewarnings from coming to fruition. Then willing to accept backup in any form, Anakin was grateful for her presence on the crowded public freighter they once again used to conceal their passage to Naboo.

    There, anonymous amongst the masses, they hid in plain sight. Anakin kept his hood up until they were safely beyond the Core as a precaution - his face was flashed on the HoloNet as a war hero with some regularity, and he did not want anyone to look at him and draw an accurate conclusion. Between that and Padmé's veiled headdress and strategically draped robes, they were hardly given a second glance. To further conceal themselves, Anakin kept up a steady impression of move along, there's nothing here for you to see in the Force, and they were not disturbed.

    Yet, for the most part, it seemed that their precautions were unnecessary. They were far from the only battle-weary family making use of the transports that ambled up and down the hyperspace lanes to the Outer Rim and back, after all. Many were returning home from the capitol, while a sobering percentage of the passengers were war refugees and immigrants heading towards a new life on one of the planets of sanctuary that had opened their borders to those displaced by the war. He mostly sensed anxiety and anticipation rolling through the masses, all punctuated by flares of hope so strong that they rocked as sun-bursts to the immaterial eyes of the Force. It was on those bright notes that he chose to ground his own senses, and he kept his center. Your focus determines your reality, he reminded himself, and endeavored to make that maxim a truth as he breathed.

    Early in the flight, Anakin found a seat for Padmé by one of the less crowded bulkheads, and she curled in against him to find a comfortable position to rest. It felt . . . right . . . to stroke a hand up and down her arm and sense her drowsy thoughts give way to true sleep. As she dozed, his eyes followed the children weaving through the dense crowd in a game of chase. He was lulled by the sound of their laughter, distantly wondering what his own children would look like with age. Would the boy have his grin? Would the girl have her mother's eyes? Once again, he set his jaw and filled on his determination: they would both live long enough to find out. He refused to entertain any other outcome; he would allow only one reality.

    It was not until they were almost upon the Mid Rim that Anakin left to find the cafeteria. Padmé had awakened with a craving, and he'd accepted the quest as a convenient opportunity to stretch his legs and scope out the crowd for foul intentions. Soon enough, he'd put together a tray of pickled chasuka greens, sweet and sour nuna, and a bag of puffed scroomchips for his wife to dine on. Proud of his success in fulfilling her requests, though tempted by none of the food himself, he returned to Padmé and Sabé . . . only to find that they had attracted attention in his absence.

    After first tensing and preparing for the worst, Anakin quickly found himself relaxing: there was nothing to fear. Slowly, a grudging smile even spread across his face, and he paused to observe the scene.

    A tall, stately alien was bent at the waist before Padmé, asking permission to touch a soft, reverent hand to the concealed swell of her stomach. From all of the research he'd done after accepting his Padawan . . . his former Padawan, he still had to correct himself . . . Anakin recognized a Togrutan clan mother when he saw one. He glanced and, sure enough, there was a telling flock of five adolescent Togruta hovering behind her, though he doubted that any were hers by blood. The matron, Anakin drew his gaze back from the young ones to see, was inclining her massive crown of montrals and congratulating his wife on her expecting condition. Though Padmé took great pains to ensure that her pregnancy was not visible to the naked eye, such things were biologically impossible to hide from certain species – and Togruta with their spatial awareness could not help but sense the two fetal heartbeats echoing her own. Anakin took note of the impressive loops of beads and akul teeth decorating the woman's horns, and knew that she was considered to be a revered protector amongst her people. Culturally, words of well-wishing from her mouth would be considered a blessing, and Anakin understood the honor for what it was.

    Yet, Padmé was not aware of what Anakin knew. She merely kept to her practiced senator's expression, and fought the clear urge she had – to Anakin's knowing eyes, at least – to tense for the unexpected attention. By her side, Sabé was less gracious with her protective instincts surging to the fore, and she frowned openly. Her hands had fallen to where her knives were concealed by her cloak – but such would not offend the Togruta, Anakin knew. In her own way, she would only approve.

    It was with a spring to his step that Anakin approached the odd little gathering and set his gleanings down. Padmé could not quite hold the Togruta's eyes when she was distracted by the food, he fought a smile to see. He could sense her hunger as his vague awareness of his children shifted to express a matching expectation; they were hungry too.

    “Greetings,” the Togruta welcomed him, her Basic heavily accented. “Are you the father?”

    “I am,” Anakin felt a swell of pride to confirm. The words felt natural to say . . . satisfying, even. He sat down next to Padmé, and took her hand to squeeze in reassurance. He felt the way her fingers tensed before she returned the pressure, but she quickly calmed upon realizing that he sensed no danger. “This is my wife, and this is her clan sister,” he introduced Sabé next. Such was true enough, by Togrutan standards.

    The Togruta gave a pleased trill in the back of her throat to hear his words. “My congratulations to you, then. Your mate carries both a strong hunter and a speaker for many mouths in her womb . . you will find great delight in discovering which is which in the years to come. Cherish them, young ones,” for this she looked to Padmé and then back to Anakin to say, “and hold them close. Do not let them go . . . they will be stronger together than they ever could be apart.”

    “I thank-you for your words, honored mother,” Anakin inclined his head respectfully, just as Padmé said, “We intend to,” in a low voice, thick with promise. He held her hand tighter, feeling her determination grow to dwarf his own.

    The clan mother gave a last warm trill at the sight. Then, with a series of whistles in her own tongue she turned, and her flock of young charges hastened to follow her. Anakin watched them disappear in the crowd, and a bittersweet sort of longing rose in his heart before he carefully tucked the emotion away with the force of long practice. It was not the time for such thoughts . . . not then.

    When Padmé did not move for a long moment, he glanced to see that she was still staring at the crowd, clearly lost in thought. He shifted, and pushed the tray of food closer to her. The cacophony of smells was not appetizing to him in the slightest, but he could hear her stomach rumble. The sensation broke her from her haze, and she blinked.

    “I just realized . . . she's the first person who has congratulated me for the twins,” Padmé whispered. He watched her eyes fall halfway closed, and he acknowledged the experiences she had missed out on for the necessity of hiding their relationship: the well wishes and the celebrations and the giddy embrace of her family's pride and joy. He let loose a breath at the last thought, knowing that that too was a wrong they would have to set to right when they reached Naboo.

    “I . . . understand,” Anakin inclined his head. “That . . . that was the first time I introduced you as my wife to another being.”

    For that, Padmé opened her eyes fully, and fixed her gaze on him. A small smile bloomed from the sad corners of her mouth. “It felt . . .”

    “Good?” Anakin offered. It was such a small word, incapable of wholly describing the lambent sort of contentment he could feel pulsing from his heart. But, it was accurate enough.

    “Yes,” Padmé agreed, her smile stretching. “Very.”

    For a moment, Anakin was taken by the happiness in her expression. Her dark eyes sparkled, and he had to duck his head in order to curb his own smile before it grew too wide. “Come on, then – those greens are hardly edible when hot, and they're getting cold.”

    “Oh, you don't have to tell me that - it's your son who wants them.” Padmé winkled her nose in distaste. “Why I'm craving all of this vinegar is beyond me when I struggle to keep it down. I always pay for it later.”

    Anakin made a commiserating sound in the back of his throat, and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. He kissed her temple, wishing that he could do more for her. “You're a good mother,” he whispered warmly. “They'll thank you someday.”

    After months of stalwartly enduring the changes to her body on her own, Padmé leaned into him with a boneless sort of grace. She trusted him to support her as she closed her eyes, long and slow. “I look forward to being their mother . . . even if that means I have to eat pickled greens in the meantime.” Though lighthearted, the words were full with a whispered sort of hope, so soft that he first had to concentrate to hear them. But they were words he agreed with in their entirety, and they reverberated in his mind long after their sound tapered off into silence.



    .

    .

    After settling in on Naboo, Anakin acted as her shield when she broke the news to her parents and sister the following day.

    Standing as a bulwark for his wife, he watched their shock disappointment swell and then crest on a wave of disbelief wonder joy. It was becoming a familiar cauldron of emotions to his senses, and he chose to focus on only the latter as Padmé cried into her mother's shoulder and held her sister tight. He had not realized just how strong she was being alone until she broke down so completely, safely protected by the warm cocoon of her family's love. Anakin felt a matching sort of peace to feel the healing and contentment soothing across her spirit, and he drank in deeply of the affection binding the small family together. There was no place for dark thoughts of the future when surrounded by such a light.

    At least, there was not until Padmé's father came to stand by his side. His arms were folded, and there was a firmness to the line of his jaw that Anakin knew well to recognize: it was an expression his daughter had inherited in its entirety, after all. Reflexively, he stood up straighter, and steeled himself for whatever the older man was about to say. For Padmé, he would bear it with grace.

    Yet, Ruwee Naberrie was a canny man more so than a vengeful one, and while keeping a careful eye on the women of his family, be lowered his voice to say to Anakin's ears alone: “There is a danger to my daughter's pregnancy, is there not?”

    For nothing less would have drawn a general so far away from the front lines. It was a clear deduction to make - no matter what affection a father may have felt for his wife and children to be. And Ruwee was not a foolish man in the slightest.

    “There is a risk . . . I have foreseen it,” Anakin saw no point in concealing the truth – not any more. Not to them. “But, we will face it - together. I am not leaving her.”

    A long moment passed before Ruwee nodded. He said nothing more; he only rested a heavy hand on Anakin's shoulder, and then moved forward to take his turn marveling over the advent of his grandchildren. Padmé dried her tears when, but moments later, she felt the twins move, and she placed her father's hand over her swollen stomach in time to feel them kick against her womb.

    “The girl,” Anakin was now able to identify in the Force with a fond roll of his eyes. The knowledge was still a heady sort of glow, deep in his spirit: his daughter. “She's going to be a fighter.”

    “Her brother's always so gentle,” Padmé smiled with an abject fondness to say. “I've only really felt him move the first time he sensed you.” For those words, she looked over to Anakin, and he felt an overwhelming sort of emotion take root in his chest. For a moment, it was hard to breathe as Ruwee invited him to join the family's embrace. Jobal kissed his cheek as she would a son, and Sola's eyes were soft as she looked at him. But then, she'd long held her suspicions, Padmé had once told him. What she could conceal from her parents was harder from her sister, in a way, as they'd always been close.

    All the while, Anakin continued to bask in the contented hum of the Force, and allowed the potent glow of family home to settle deep within him.

    The following days passed with him mostly lost in meditation. This far from Coruscant, this far from the front-lines of the war, he found that his mind was clearer; his connection to the Force was stronger. He often found himself lost in thought, probing the depths of the Force to better understand its will and his purpose in fulfilling it. He felt more centered than he had in years as he coasted through the currents of his power to better understand its shape and reason for being, all the while listening to his wife in the next room and grounding himself on the already impossibly bright lights that were his children – his children.

    Chancellor Palpatine tried to contact him more than once during his time away. Although Anakin first felt a strong compulsion to answer and tell his old friend everything that was transpiring – everything that he feared . . . he did not. The Force whispered its approval for his choice, and when Anakin felt himself wavering, wanting to give in to the blinking red light on the comm unit and -

    “ - what do you think, Ani? The green or the blue?” Padmé appeared, holding up two sample swaths of pastel fabric for the curtains in the nursery. The soft yellow tones of the room would need a highlight, and she knew his preference for both. Beyond her, he could hear the laughter of his nieces as they decorated the nursery alongside Sola and Sabé. As far along as she was, Padmé was more of a general marshaling her troops than she was an active participant in the designing, and their sanctuary by the lake was noisy and boisterous – happily so. He could smell Jobal cooking in the kitchens, speaking to her husband in an undertone Anakin could not quite make out.

    Ignoring the chancellor's summons once again, he stood from his meditative pose and decided, “The blue. There's already green enough from the gardens, don't you think?”

    Padmé nodded her approval, and flashed him a soft sort of grin to say, “Good. I liked the blue too.”

    Anakin could not help but chuckle, wise enough as he was to know: “I never really had a say in the matter, did I?”

    “Well . . . maybe it was a small say,” Padmé could not help but tease. “But it was still a say.”

    Anakin heaved an exaggerated sigh as he walked over to wrap an arm about her waist. “After all these years, I am beginning to understand my role in this relationship: you just want me to stand here and look all devastatingly handsome - ”

    Padmé stood up on the tips of her toes and silenced him with a kiss – a thoughtless gesture of affection that nonetheless had him closing his eyes and carefully committing every sensation to memory. “Mmm, perhaps,” she playfully agreed. Her eyes took on an approving glow as she looked him up and down. “But, I can also honestly say that I love you for your mind. Which you can prove,” she deftly stepped away from the circle of his arms before he could catch her again, “by figuring out the instructions for the cribs. I do know how you love to tinker, after all.”

    Alright then: her challenge was accepted. He followed her into the nursery, already feeling the familiar rush that came with the beginning of a new project. “Your wish is my command, milady,” he grinned as she passed him holodisc containing the instructions, and together they fell into a comfortable rhythm readying the room for their children - with the chancellor and his summons put far from his mind for the rest of the day.



    .

    .

    It only took a day more for General Grievous to fall – but then, Anakin was not truly surprised to hear the news. He had dreamed of it the night before it happened. Here on Naboo, listening to the waves whisper in the cradle of the lake and holding his wife and children as they dreamed, he found his connection to the Force to be an almost tangible thing – he saw more, he felt more. He was learning to trust his instincts; he was learning to understand that which he dreamed.

    He still, with a disturbing regularity, saw his wife die when he closed his eyes . . . over and over again. Yet, the premonition felt further away to him now. In motion, the future was, and he intended to send it spinning.

    “This effectively puts the war to an end – there will be further battles to fight, of course, but now it's time for diplomacy to return to the forefront in this conflict. To that end, the Jedi Council will ask the chancellor to return his emergency powers, effective immediately.” The miniature hologram of Obi-Wan folded his arms and cupped his chin in a thoughtful expression. “His reaction to our request will tell us a great deal.”

    “I'm sure that the chancellor will see the benefit of letting democracy resume,” Anakin did not have to think twice to defend. “He's only remained in power for so long out of necessity – he was asked to, and he could not say no. When asked again by the people, he will step aside.”

    In answer, Obi-Wan simply looked at him. Anakin could not quite read his expression before he gave an inaudible sigh. “I do hope that you're right, Anakin.” He shook his head, and then squared his shoulders against whatever thought had so clearly been bothering him. “Either way, we have a few days to consider how to best phrase our argument – we won't move until all of the senior members of the Council can meet with him. We're wrapping up here on Utapau, and Master Yoda foresees an eminent victory with the Wookiees on Kashyyyk. Masters Koon and Mundi booth expect to take leave from their battalions by the end of the five-day, as well. They too will join the meeting.”

    “Excellent,” Anakin approved. With so many skilled negotiators voicing their opinions, his friend would surely agree with their reasoning, and all would then return to as it was before the war.

    . . . well, in a way, at least. But thoughts of rebuilding and reconciliation were for a later time. Then, there was only the present.

    “And . . . you?” Obi-Wan delicately asked on the wings of his thoughts. “How are you doing, my friend?” Even across the distance, Anakin could feel a ghost of warmth whisper across their bond, and he let the sensation ground him.

    “I am . . . finding my peace,” he finally answered. “Coming to Naboo was the right decision - and it has been good for me. I've been meditating, mostly – and listening, rather than acting.” His admittance drew an amused expression from Obi-Wan, and Anakin fought the instinctively childish urge he had to role his eyes in reply. “Padmé . . . she's not feeling well today. Carrying one child is no easy task at the best of times, and carrying two is physically taking its toll on her. Her mother and the physicians assure me that all is well, that this is natural so close to the end of her term, and yet . . .” Her misery was something palpable to his senses, and it pained him that he could do no more than hold her hand and keep her relatively comfortable while she struggled with the intrinsic ways of nature.

    Then, to remember his visions . . .

    . . . but no.

    No.

    “There is an amazing fortitude to the female of the species – one that we will never completely understand, I fear,” Obi-Wan sagely nodded. “Trust her to know what is right with her body, Anakin, and go from there. Unnecessary fear will only cloud your judgment right now, when you need for it to be clear more so than ever.”

    “I understand, Master,” Anakin inclined his head. For he did understand – truly he did . . . even if putting theory into practice was more difficult than not, at times.

    “Good,” Obi-Wan's expression softened, and the blue of his eyes was kind. “I'll keep you updated as events with the chancellor unfold. I will then make my way to Naboo as soon as I can . . . you won't be alone for this.”

    “I thank you for that,” Anakin found himself saying on a deep exhale. Once again, he endeavored to quiet his doubts and instead trust in the familiar pillar of fortitude and serenity the elder Jedi always was. He was successful in doing so . . . somewhat. “May the Force be with you, Obi-Wan.” The weight of his emotions turned the words heavy.

    “And with you, Anakin,” Obi-Wan's farewell was gently intoned, and then the hologram flickered away.

    Anakin sat back against the couch cushions with a sigh, and scrubbed his organic hand over his face in a restless gesture that the Temple had failed to school out of him as a child. He then heard a whisper of fabric, and a heavy step, before:

    “The Jedi are forcing the chancellor’s hand, then?” Padmé asked from the entrance to the room. Her voice held a quiet satisfaction, Anakin puzzled to hear – yet a whisper of trepidation, as well. Uncertainty, too.

    “I don't know if I would call it forcing,” Anakin did not quite agree with her phrasing – even as he surged to his feet to help her move over to the sofa. Padmé flashed him a grateful look, and he took more of her weight against himself.

    “You shouldn't be up right now.” Anakin did not need the Force to tell him how weary she was. “You should be in bed, resting.”

    “Your son decided to do somersaults on my bladder. So I could not stay in bed,” Padmé waved her hand dismissively. She narrowed her eyes as if her current discomfort was all his fault . . . which, in a way, it was. “Then, after Moteé's latest report from the Senate . . . I could not sleep with my thoughts.” She sighed, and leaned her head against his arm before straightening her back with the full dignity she'd learned as queen and since retained through her public life. “I fear that it is a mountain that the Jedi are about to move against, and I am worried for them,” she admitted honestly. “Palpatine has garnered more and more power for himself, and he's retained it for far too long. Not easily, do I think, will he let that power go now that he has it.”

    For a moment, Anakin only stared at his wife . . . he was slow to digest the full implication of her words. He could not quite bring himself to believe what she was trying to say. “Padmé . . .” he started, an edge unwittingly sharpening his voice.

    Her eyes flashed at the unspoken challenge, even as her tone and facial expression softened to say, “Ani, you know that Sheev was once as good a friend and mentor to me as he is to you - ”

    “ - Padmé, do you realize what you are saying?” Anakin did not let her finish. “Your words could be construed as treasonous.”

    “Yes, I recognize the implications full well,” Padmé tilted her chin up, and determinedly held her course. “Anakin, you see the best of the chancellor, and for that I am grateful. But, after working with him day in and day out for years . . . to have all of our diplomatic efforts subverted time and time again, all the while losing more and more individual and sovereign rights as Palpatine grudgingly accepts more power with a burdened sort of benevolence . . . There are too many coincidences to sit back and simply ignore. It's as if some invisible hand is pulling the strings, and we are all just puppets playing along to someone else's whims . . . I am not saying that the chancellor is that puppet-master . . . only, that someone clearly wants him in power, and is willing to take away civil rights and planetary liberties to do so.”

    For a long moment, Anakin was silent; he could not speak. He felt his anger rise at the implications of her words – not at Padmé, not quite – and yet, his anger was there. It was drawn from somewhere deep inside of him, as if a thousand little tender seeds suddenly sprouted in the fertile doubts of his mind, so much so, that . . .

    There was the hand of a Sith clouding everything – this he knew as well as any Jedi in the Order. Could this . . . could his friend truly be caught up, even unwittingly, in a scheme so much vaster and insidious than any of them yet realized?

    His temples suddenly throbbed, and a dark pain blossomed behind his skull. He dropped his head into his hands and closed his eyes to alleviate the pressure building there, but to no avail. He could feel the chancellor's hand on his shoulder as a physical weight then, as if preparing to lean down to speak into his ear and -

    “ - Anakin?” Padmé's voice broke through his haze, clearly worried for him. “Ani, are you - ”

    “ - I'm okay,” after a heartbeat, he assured her. She had hesitated to say this to him – she had been trying to do so delicately for months, even, but he had not wanted to listen. And, now . . . “I'm sorry for my reaction,” he knew he had to add, not wanting to build more walls between them. “I was not mad at you.”

    “It's a painful thing to consider,” Padmé whispered, and he felt a matching wound throb in her spirit. She had loved the chancellor too, once . . . he wondered when that love had faded. He wondered how he had been so blind as to miss it. “I dearly hope to be wrong, of course. But, consider . . . why else would the Jedi gather in such force if they did not foresee the need for compulsion? I know that you've had your issues with the Council, but they are wise men and women who are truly interested in the good of all, no matter their flaws. Just . . . . think about it, Anakin . . . and be careful where Palpatine is concerned. That's all I ask.”

    A moment passed, fraught with implication and promise. “Of course, love,” Anakin finally agreed on a whisper. “I'll keep your words in mind.” That much, at least, he could agree to . . . even if it was to protect his old friend when he still believed him to be caught up in something larger than anything they yet understood.

    “Thank-you,” Padmé breathed, relief clear in her voice. Her posture slumped, and Anakin could feel her discomfort building from where she had too long ignored it, once again. His worry for his wife taking precedence over his worry for the chancellor, he gently swept her up in his arms, and moved to return her to bed.



    ~MJ @};-
     
    Lydia99, AkyeRae, Chyntuck and 6 others like this.
  8. RX_Sith

    RX_Sith C&G Game Host star 5 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2006
    Very distinctive conversation between Anakin and Padmé in regards to Palpatine's shiftiness and control of everything that is important to them.
     
  9. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Like the update! How things COULD have happened, if Anakin had been open. However...however...it does seem as if Palpy still has his hooks in Anakin. The young man is still fighting the Dark within him. For her sake & the children, I'd like to think he'll defeat it. Even if it means the Saga will never happen. :)
     
  10. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Feb 25, 2010
    There is something just so amazing about the image of Padmé curled up against Anakin. I actually didn’t mid EP III (of course Anakin had to fall and all that to lead to the events of the OT). But that image is why I love fanfic. It is just so peaceful, so right for our beloved characters to get those moments, we just never saw in the movies and very rarely in the books.

    Anyways. Anakin getting to announce that he’s the father, and Padmé trying to include him in the decorating process; these moments are also just so adorable!

    Though for all the light moments, stupid evil Palpy is still lurking around. Can someone please deal with him so this can be happy?
     
  11. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    I hadn't thought of Anakin Skywalker in connection with this song, but now that you have, I can see it--he was indeed very young and foolish (and dumb and Sithly), and he had many years left to regret the choices he made. Obviously, he had to fall in Episode III to become the person he had already been portrayed as being in the Original Trilogy, but--and I wonder if this is a general issue with prequels--the narrative arc that Lucas chose to lead there never felt inevitable. It could have easily, with a just a little application of logic, gone elsewhere. It's the same thing with A/P (and perhaps the reason I have never cared for it)--the relationship was ultimately bad, for both of them, but if they had just grown up and bucked up and dealt with any resulting consequences, it wouldn't have been.

    (Also--Anakin was so blasted obsessed with saving Padmé because he couldn't bear to lose her, that he didn't seem to once think of asking her opinion on the matter. And I won't even get into the mindset that allowed him to think she would be keen on ruling the galaxy side-by-side with him. But that is another issue.)

    It still seems to me, after two posts, that the main AU in this story is a dream Anakin has in his life as Darth Vader, as he imagines the decisions he should have made, and the road he should have taken. The only thing that makes me doubt that is that even before the AU part begins, he knows his wife is expecting twins--not only did Anakin not know that in the movies, I don't think, however illogical it was, Padmé knew it either. So I suppose I'll just wait to see what develops in further posts.

    Of course, while Anakin has come clean with Obi-Wan, I suppose I oughtn't be surprised that their lives continue to be mostly secrecy as usual--hence Padmé having to sneak about with a decoy covering for her. (We know Anakin has a plausible excuse for his absence, so I'm left to wonder how Padmé has explained away her near-complete withdrawal from political life while still being on Coruscant.) But I did notice that, while Moteé isn't, apparently, allowed any actual political responsibilities, she is the one--not Junior Senator Binks--keeping Padmé updated on the political situation.

    And that situation is getting complex--at the end of the post, Padmé and Anakin come close to the truth, so close, but they don't quite make it all the way. And understandably so--Palpatine's Nice Old Naboo Grandpa act was good. Very good. I have to admit that if I hadn't known from the Original Trilogy that he was also the mysterious Darth Sidious, I would have fallen for it myself.

    Finally, thank you for taking part in the challenge!
     
  12. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Thank-you. :)


    Oh, good ol' Palpatine has his hooks in deep, you're right! But then, he's been manipulating Anakin since he was nine, so, as much as I would like to hand-wave that bond, I'm afraid that I need to chip away at it some more. I know, I'd rather just space him out of the airlock too. :p

    I'm glad you're enjoying this, though! I thank you for reading. :D


    Exactly! Fanfiction is the best for those softer moments - when you can let the characters simply be characters. Anakin and Padmé, especially, have very little time, on-screen and off, to actually be a couple, and there's all sorts of tragedy inherent in that.

    And that's fair about RoTS. :) I like some parts of the movie, but I've always felt that the writing had to end with Anakin as Darth Vader . . . so it did. I won't rant about particulars here, but the circumstances leading up to his turning . . . I don't know, it never sat right with me, just how quick and complete his fall was. Anakin definitely had Dark Side potential going on, and he was ever on a precipice, but Ep. III felt clunky and rushed in my opinion. But, once again, that's were fanfiction comes in - so many authors have nailed it, so I'm content. :p

    Because they so deserved it! I had so much joy for writing those scenes. [face_love]

    [face_laugh][face_mischief] Weeeell, let me see what I can do about that . . . [face_whistling]

    As always, I thank you for reading! [:D]


    Exactly! I couldn't agree more. I enjoy A/P in fanfiction more than I do in the movies, just because so much about their relationship was . . . well, cringe-worthy, honestly. But there is an untapped potential to their story, underneath all the muck - for the most part, I've been happy to leave telling that tale to better authors than me, but it has been enjoyable working with this what-if here. :)

    You wouldn't be wholly incorrect in that statement. [face_whistling]

    Between the medial care available in the SW universe, and, oh, I don't know, Anakin being the Chosen One sensing his children, the idea that they were blindsided by twins is another plot point that I've never understood. That's normally something I include whenever I write A/P, but here, it may mean something more! [face_mischief]

    Yeeeah, they can't come completely clean just yet, and there will definitely be consequences when they do. But, for them, they're trying, at least - which is progress. As for Moteé - still no official duties, but I imagine that she knows her stuff, politically speaking, else she wouldn't be left in there, regardless. I picture her like Sabé in TPM - she still knows enough to hold her position and parrot whatever Padmé needs saying if it comes down to it. So, both she and Jar Jar can report back to Padmé in the meantime. The rest, I admit, was hand-waved for the sake of the story. ;)

    I have nothing but a twisted sort of respect for Palpatine and his machinations. Just . . . to topple a galactic government like that in just a few short decades and play so many people and events like a fine tuned harp? Yeah, he takes the villain-cake in any fandom, hands down. His Old Naboo Grandpa act - love that phrasing, btw! [face_laugh] - would have blindsided me too! 8-}

    And I thank you guys for hosting the challenge! It's been a great spark to the muse - clearly! ;) :D


    I also have to give a big ol' [:D] to everyone else who has left likes, or simply lurked and enjoyed. You guys make writing this even more enjoyable than it already is. [face_love]

    The next part will be up after one final look through . . .
     
    Ewok Poet, AzureAngel2 and Findswoman like this.
  13. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Notes: There's a smattering of Legends backstory here that I tried to splice with the New Canon continuity as best as I could. So, ahoy discrepancies! if you're a stickler for that sort of thing. ;) There are also spoilers here for the relatively new Ahsoka novel. So, if you don't want to know what she was up to during Order 66, well, here's your chance to turn back.

    For everyone else, enjoy! :)






    III

    That night, Anakin's dreams were odd, twisted things. He visions came in fragments: flashes of white plasteel, and the blue glare of plasma-fire, reflected over and over again on a thousand different worlds. He saw himself, cloaked and hooded, his face lost in shadow as he led a massive column of soldiers into battle – his soldiers, proudly bearing the blue standard of the 501st legion. He could feel the rise of their blood as they marched in perfect unison, but there was no speech amongst the ranks; there was none of the familiar banter or proud war-cries he'd since learned to expect and make his own. Instead, his men were silent, so horribly silent as they marched across a peaceful - holy - ground, and then, at his command -

    - inwardly, a million men screamed as, across the galaxy, a light went out. While he -

    - Anakin surged to awareness with a wordless cry still trapped in the back of his throat. At first, the natural dark of the night sharply warred with the jarring unreality of his dreams; he could not find his breath as his heart hammered out an intense rhythm in his chest. In a now too familiar force of habit, he forced his lungs to fill, slowly taking in air through his nose and exhaling deeply out through his mouth to find a rhythm again. It took him a minute, then two, but he found his center. Slowly, he recovered his balance.

    Finally, he could open his eyes without seeing untoward shapes lurking in the shadows . . . watching . . . waiting.

    Turning, he then noticed the blinking comm unit on the bedside stand – the impetus that had first awakened him from his nightmare, it took him a moment to understand. That small, flashing red light helped further slow his pulse, and with a stern force of will he pushed his dreams aside. He'd meditate on them later; in that moment, the here and now had need of him.

    It was still some hours before sunrise by Naboo's time, his brain still fuzzily processed, but by the rotation of Mandalore, the New Mandalorian capitol of Sundari was fresh into its morning cycle. Looking at the call-code, understanding dawned, and -

    - he knew who was trying to contact him.

    Recalled by his duty, he put the signal on hold with a gesture. He then quickly rose, and, after making sure that Padmé and the twins were comfortably sleeping, he shrugged on his robe and moved to the common-room to accept Ahsoka Tano's call.

    Ahsoka's call. The thought was still enough to inspire a breathless, bruised sort of sensation in his chest. When he and Obi-Wan were recalled to Coruscant by the kidnapping of Chancellor Palpatine, Anakin had left his former apprentice with Captain Rex and a company from the 501st to put down Darth Maul's latest machinations on Mandalore. He hadn't thought twice about his decision at the time – instead, he'd simply trusted his instincts, and those instincts now surged to the forefront of his being as she swam in a haze of familiar blue light before sharpening in the holofeed. His Padawan.

    It felt . . . right to see her standing there in command again, something in his heart twisted to insist. The sight was fitting, natural, even: something that was always meant to be.

    Even so, the past year had left a marked difference on Ahsoka. Now just shy of eighteen years of age, she'd grown taller; a last growth spurt had left her just short of looking Rex in the eye, while the dramatic curve of her montrals now exceeded him in height. Her lekku had lengthened to reach halfway to her waist, and, no matter that she still had some decades to go before coming into her full Togrutan heritage, she held up her sweeping crown of horns with a proud tilt of her chin. More disconcertingly, her figure had continued to fill out and mature, no matter that she was still lithe with muscle from a clearly hard walked path in life. Briefly, he hoped that she had been eating and sleeping enough . . . her cheeks were much too hollow for his taste. She'd lost too much of the soft, heart-shaped roundness of her youth, Anakin could not help but worry. The white marks fanning over her cheekbones were larger, just as the patterns on her brow and forehead were more strikingly defined. The chevrons on her head-tails were more exaggerated, with the rich blue shapes turning wispy as they stretched and lost their rigid forms. His apprentice had left him while still a child, and, somehow, she had grown into a woman while gone from his side. The change was still enough to level Anakin where he stood.

    . . . yet, the most glaring difference between his Ahsoka and this Ahsoka was her eyes. They were too old for her face . . . much too old. But then, what Padawan in the Order did not have such eyes, after what they had seen in their days? Even a former Padawan, who had dived headfirst to survive in the unforgiving galaxy alone . . .

    But Ahsoka was no longer alone, a small, hopeful part of Anakin wanted to whisper aloud and believe with all his being. The Force had ensured the crossing of their paths; fate had thrown them together again, and now, this time -

    . . . this time, he could do things right. This time, he would hold on tighter, and not let her go so easily.

    But, Anakin reminded himself, that was a thought for later. For the time being, there was only the now. Instead of letting his thoughts carry him away, he forced himself to listen to Ahsoka's brief greeting before she launched into her report, filling him in on everything he had missed since being recalled to Coruscant. As always, Rex was largely content to let her speak with only a few interjections of his own. No matter her loss of formal command in the GAR, he still instinctively flanked her right side, his battered helmet tucked underneath his arm in a deceivingly relaxed pose. His brow was furrowed and his posture was as severe as ever, but there was an ease to his stance that had been lacking for months. There was pride in his expression for the mission at hand – anticipation, even, such as Anakin had not seen in a long time . . . much too long, really.

    As of late, his captain had been . . . well, no one could ever accuse Rex of doing anything less than his duty, but the spirit in which he carried out his orders had been strained. The were paired together in the days just following the First Battle of Geonosis, and, since then, Anakin had watched as Rex's zealous faith in both the Jedi and the Republic survived one crippling blow after the next. With each battle survived, and every comrade mourned . . . with the eye-opening horrors of Umbara endured . . . and then, with the loss of Ahsoka, whom all of his men had adored . . .

    We're supposed to take care of our own. General – especially the ade. It's to us to look after them when no one else will,Rex had said the one and only time they discussed her leaving. “She was failed by those who should have protected her. Now, we have to live with that, sir.

    It was to them to take care of their own, few as they remained, Anakin could hear the unspoken. The original members of the 501st were . . . scarce, to say the least. There were few survivors from the second year of the war, even. Now, deep into their third year of combat, Anakin still heard their names when Rex said his litanies at night. Sometimes, Anakin wondered if Rex doubted that he recalled each and every last one of them, too.

    Now . . .

    Anakin frowned as he observed his captain, with Ahsoka's words sounding further and further away as his thoughts took him. Instead of paying attention, he found himself staring at the scar on the right side of the clone's scalp - glaringly visible from where Rex had newly shaved the tell-tale blonde of his mutation away for the day. The scar was one of many, but this one was suddenly obvious to Anakin's eyes, whispering, warning -

    - and, as he was endeavoring to do as of late – painfully so, at times – he trusted, and followed where the Force would lead.

    “You had your chip removed, didn't you?” Anakin interrupted, cutting off Ahsoka mid-sentence. She blinked, taken aback, and glanced over in time to see Rex's eyes narrow at the question before his features smoothed back over again.

    “Yes, sir . . . I did,” Rex was only a heartbeat slow to confirm. Though his tone was respectful, Anakin could read the unwitting challenge that filled his stance. He didn't say it, but Anakin could hear: I'm here because I choose to be, not because I have no choice in the matter, as plain as if it was spoken aloud. That very sentiment was why he'd never questioned his captain when he first had the chip removed; instead, they'd both continued on in silence, and the rancor in the room was never mentioned again.

    Yet, now . . .

    The biochips were implanted to ensure obedience, Anakin could clearly remember the Kaminoans' explanation - as a safeguard to ensure that the worst of Jango Fett's personality was restrained in the clones. Initially, Anakin had only known relief to disprove the sinister implications Fives had tried to warn them of before he was . . . subdued by the chancellor's guard. (Before he was executed – put down like a dog who'd lost his usefulness, something deep inside of him whispered.) Yet . . .

    The Force was swirling around him . . . urging . . . pushing. He would follow where it led.

    “Have you noticed anything . . . different about yourself since then?” Anakin forced the sentence to form. Any sort of unbridled aggression, or thoughts of dissension . . . vague urges of homicidal rage, even? He wanted to make light of the question, but found that he could not. The words curdled on his tongue.

    Rex clearly hesitated as he formed his answer, but it was Ahsoka who interrupted to speak for him. She took a bold step towards the holorecorder, unconsciously angling her body between he and Rex as if to stand as a shield for the latter. She had not been there for Tup . . . or for Fives, but Rex must have filled her in for how quickly she caught onto his line of questioning now. She liked it but little.

    “What are you trying to get at, Anakin?” the sharp points of her teeth flashed with a challenge. After spending so much time on her own, her edges were more acutely defined, a part of Anakin mourned to see. She did not trust as easily as she once had; she'd seen the ugly underbelly of the galaxy, and had learned to expect it more often than not. But that was fine by him - the wound she'd left in her turn still smarted, and he did not have to feign his frown as he stared at her.

    If I couldn't mentor - if I couldn't protect - my apprentice, the thought suddenly ghosted across his mind, then what business do I have being a father? How can I expect to raise a child, if I could not lead this child down the path she was so clearly meant to take?

    That single, terrible thought was a shadow of doubt against the careful light he shrouded his mind in as of late. Abruptly, as if the memory was tugged to the forefront of his consciousness like a moon summoning a tide, he remembered -

    Oh, my dear boy . . . you mustn’t take this to heart.” He could still recall Palpatine's heavy hand resting on his shoulder as tangibly as any physical sensation. The chancellor had called him to his office to make amends for his own role in pushing for a guilty sentence in Ahsoka's trial. He too had been blinded by the true culprit behind the Temple bombing, and, unlike the Council, he was willing to admit his error in judgment. He was not too arrogant to accept that he had been wrong . . . so very wrong.

    The twilight painted scarlet bands across Palpatine's office, Anakin remembered; their shadows were long and dark as they stretched across the floor.

    Sometimes,” Palpatine continued to soothe with his words,no matter our best efforts, even the most devoted of fathers fail their children.”

    I'm her Master, though,” Anakin could not bring himself to speak in the past tensesometimes, he still could not. “It's different than that.” More, in a way.

    Palpatine's fingers flexed on his shoulder. Always sensitive to the cold, Anakin could feel the temperature fall as the sunlight retreated beyond the horizon. “Of course, Anakin – you have my apologies for misunderstanding. Yet, even the Jedi love those whom they teach, do they not? More's the shame to dedicate so much of yourself to another sentient being . . . and have it wasted. All that time and effort . . . it's such a pity, really. A most unfortunate tragedy, in every way.

    . . . but, it was not a waste, Anakin confronted the chancellor's voice in his mind as Ahsoka defiantly took her stand. It was not.

    His eyes fell to the dual lightsabers she had newly hanging from her belt - returned to their rightful place, where they ever should have remained, no matter how Obi-Wan had sighed at him for doing so - and thought: I can fix this. I will fix this.

    “I don't know, Ahsoka.” In the end, it was the only answer he could truly give. “I just have a . . . feeling about this.”

    “A feeling?” Ahsoka repeated. “A bad feeling?” she tried to probe. A wry smile tugged on the corners of her mouth for the familiar words; the expression, Anakin hated to see, was tired.

    “Should we be concerned, General?” Rex echoed Ahsoka to ask - minus the hearty dose of dubiousness. The unswerving trust in his captain's gaze twisted at something deep inside of him, and Anakin slowly shook his head. He wouldn't ask his initial question twice if Rex would not dignify it with an answer; he respected him too much for that. “Is this something like what had to do with . . .”

    But Rex could not finish his sentence; he could not give voice to the name of their shared ghost. At the grim cast of his eyes, Anakin thought about the men still remaining on the front-lines – now so much less than their initial millions, and knew . . .

    “I don't know,” he repeated again, though gently so. “The Force is urging me on this matter, but I don't know what it's trying to tell me. Not yet.” He waved his hand, and fought the urge he had to sigh. Neither his captain or his apprentice . . . no, just Ahsoka now, he reflexively reminded himself . . . needed to see his doubt.

    “Please,” Anakin decided to steer the conversation back on course, “go on with your report, Ahsoka. You'll be the first to know when I've better figured this out.”

    Ahsoka was silent for a long moment, staring at him through the transmission as if she could draw the truth from his gaze. She broke off eye-contact only to share a glance with Rex, and there, Anakin felt, more was silently said between them before she grudgingly nodded.

    “Alright then,” her voice was cooler than Anakin cared to hear as she brought up a holomap of the capitol. “As I was saying: we're not going to get anywhere fighting Maul head-on - that's already been proved more than once. This plaza, here, is where we think we can lay our trap . . .”



    .

    .

    The dawn was grey with rain, and the lazy, rumbling storms continued throughout the day.

    Anakin spent the bulk of his morning meditating, and then he sat down to read through the few files he could gather on Jango Fett. They were difficult to track down with the Mandalorians having disavowed their former culture and all those tied to it with a determined sort of ruthlessness. Eventually, Anakin could only glean results by combing through the Jedi archives – which were not altered or deleted with the rising and falling of planetary powers in the slightest. Early in the morning, he sent a request for Master Sinube to send him the information he could not physically access from afar, and by the late afternoon he had the pieces available to puzzle over and form what a picture he could.

    His reading was slow, tortuously so – he'd always hated the mundane aspects of research, after all – and he had to force himself to concentrate and look for similarities between the original template and the finished product he more intimately knew. He first had to quell a fierce, seething flush of hatred when he brought up the file on his 'pad – for this man had tried to kill his wife for a profit, and Anakin's only regret for the bounty hunter's demise was that he had not swung the killing blow himself. But such a thought was steeped in vengeance and hate, swirling up from the dark, ugly furnace that churned at the core of his being. He could not allow himself to feed those flames . . . not then. He had too many counting on him . . . from his family to be, to the hundreds of thousands of men who were not their progenitor in every way that truly mattered.

    Which then brought him to question: how much of Jango Fett's personality did the biochips restrain? Well, what further behavioral traits did they mute, at least? He knew that the Kaminoans had already tampered with the clones' personality at a genetic level. Why the redundancy, then? They were already programmed to walk that delicate line between submission and free will; cautious restraint and lethal savagery; brave, selfless humility and fierce, competitive pride. Why was the extra precaution deemed necessary?

    Well, just look at the template, Anakin would have once snorted to answer, and that would have been that. Once, and yet . . .

    Jango Fett had not always been a bounty hunter. Prior to that, he'd been one of the True Mandalorians - those who followed the old ways with a strict code of honor in defiance of the New Mandalorians' pacifism and the unbridled violence of the Death Watch. Orphaned by Tor Vizsla's thugs at a young age, and taken in by Jaster Mereel himself, he'd been groomed to succeed his adopted father as the Mand'alor over the clans - which he later had. He . . . he looked to be a good leader, by all accounts, as much as Anakin hated to admit it. He scrolled through the old mission reports, and paused only when he stumbled across a familiar name -

    . . . Galidraan?

    Oh . . . Galidraan.

    He'd been involved with that dark day in Jedi history? Even though the massacre had occurred before Anakin's time, the tale was still told as a cautionary one to each and every student coming up through the Temple ranks. That lesson, reinforcing the wisdom of separating the Jedi and State, had been the first time he heard the name Count Dooku spoken - shortly after the Jedi Master officially resigned his place in the Order.

    It had been a hard time for Obi-Wan, Anakin remembered. So soon following Qui-Gon's death, their bond had been a new, fragile thing. No matter the unfamiliar gulf still yawning between them, Anakin had wanted to comfort what was so clearly an open wound on his Master's spirit . . . only, he hadn't the faintest idea of how to do so at the time

    “Dooku was Qui-Gon's Master,Obi-Wan's explanation had been short – succinctly so, but, in it, Anakin thought he could understand all that Obi-Wan did not say.

    So . . . he's like your grandfather?” It was an idea that made sense to him when all else in the Temple was still so foreign and strange.That would make him my great-grandfather, then?The idea of family, of tangible ties anchoring his heart, had been an appealing one at the time.

    I suppose you could think of it like that.But Obi-Wan's tone adopted a careful blankness that only formed whenever Anakin did not understand something fundamental to those who had grown in the Order. It was a tone that Anakin was well learning to recognize, and he felt shame bloom as a bruise on his heart. He had erred . . . again.

    However, we do not put names on such attachments here, Anakin – remember that,” Obi-Wan's voice took on a hard line as he stared unseeingly off into the distance.And Dooku is not one you should emulate. Not in any way. Put him from your mind, young one, and do not think of him again.

    So, for many years, Anakin had not.

    Yet . . . Galidraan.

    Though the Jedi Order did not like to speak of it, they knew that they had erred in interfering with Galidraan's affairs. There, they had been manipulated by the local planetary governor crying wolf to the Senate, and they had stormed in to put down the wrong wolf. They had slain the wrong Mandalorians, and the Death Watch had laughed to see their foes cut down by Jedi lightsabers without them bloodying their own hands with a single kill. Count Dooku had led the mission . . . and many Jedi died underneath his command - fallen at the hands of Jango Fett and his men, defending themselves when they were unjustly pursued. Dooku later claimed that mistake - the result of the Jedi delving in too deep and sweeping in with a sword - as a clear symptom of an irreparably flawed Order, and had left with his accusation weighing heavily on the minds of all those he abandoned. That day had been a turning point in galactic history.

    And, as for Jango . . . he'd been the only Mandalorian still breathing when the Jedi were through with them. The Republic left him to Galidraan's idea of justice, and he'd been sold by the local governor to a travelling slaver. There, the report ended before picking up again in Obi-Wan's clear post-mission voice, detailing the events that Anakin was already familiar with. Evidently, Anakin could fill in the blanks, Fett had escaped captivity, and then, with his unique skill-set, made his way in the galaxy as a bounty hunter while Satine's new order rose against the Death Watch. He'd largely fallen off the radar to all civilized society before turning up again on Kamino as the progenitor for the clone army . . .

    . . . and the paid muscle behind many of Count Dooku's schemes.

    There was a connection there . . . but not one that Anakin well understood. Why . . . why would such a Mandalorian – the last Mand'olar, at that, willingly give up his DNA for a project dedicated to the Jedi? Why would he later attack at the bidding of a client like Dooku, when he'd been the sword-hand responsible for his people's downfall and disgrace? It did not make any sense.

    That's easy, a part of Anakin still scoffed, he did so out of greed - for profit. He was paid a small fortune for relatively little in return; what more could a mercenary want?

    Maybe that was enough . . . it probably was. It would be more than enough for most of the bounty hunters Anakin knew.

    Yet . . . the scarred face on the profile seemed to laugh at him as he wrestled with his conclusion. Eyes that were Rex's eyes . . . Tup's eyes . . . Fives' eyes gleamed, knowing an answer that remained tantalizingly beyond his reach.

    Jango Fett would have happily seen the Jedi Order exterminated, that simple truth whispered across Anakin's mind, with every one of its members erased from the galactic record as if they had never existed in the first place. Why, then . . .

    . . . there was more to this. The answer was there – right there, and the Force pushed at him, until -

    “You're thinking too hard,” his wife's voice was a clear, bell-like sound against the silence. “You're giving yourself frown-lines.”

    We were not created to serve our Jedi, as we first thought, Fives' voice echoed through his mind, so thick with paranoia at the end, and then the memory winked away. Instead -

    - just like that, the bands of tension criss-crossing his mind snapped. Anakin blinked, and put the 'pad away. “I'm trying to fry a circuit,” he admitted, reaching up to scrub his hands over his face. He pressed his fingertips against his closed eyes, trying to relieve the strain he'd put on his vision. “Obi-Wan claims that I don't have many to spare, at that.”

    “Oh, I don't know,” Padmé's response was cheeky. “Something tells me that he's only exasperated when you use that mind against him.”

    Anakin's smile, when he looked up again, was fond. He could feel his own contentment glow in the Force like a banked flame. “I suppose that you could be right about that.”

    Walking for Padmé was a slow, laborious thing, but she made her way over to the sofa anyway. Reflexively, he made room for her, making sure that every trace of what he had been studying was powered down from her sight. She didn't need an unhappy reminder of a prior grief right then - Cordé, he knew that she still mourned the loss of her handmaiden, and Anakin would tell her his thoughts only when he had something conclusive to share.

    Instead, for the moment, he closed his eyes and listened to the rain as Padmé rested her head against his shoulder. He could hear the soft, musical cadence of the water dancing across the roof and chiming against the lake. Thunder rumbled in the distance, like the sleepy yawn of some great, sated beast, and Anakin felt as the sound echoed in his chest. The air was sweet smelling and clean, charged by the electricity in the atmosphere, and Anakin clenched his inorganic hand as the interfaces buzzed with a telling static.

    “It's still a novelty to me – the sound of water,” his words were drowsily spoken from the back of his throat. He wrapped a comfortable arm around his wife as she held a 'pad of her own, powering up the screen and scrolling through a list he did not bother peering over her shoulder to read. He was done with research for the day.

    “I've always loved the rain, too,” Padmé's voice was soft to agree. “Especially here.”

    Especially now, Anakin gleaned from her mind. In answer, he felt the embers of his contentment continue to glow. For a minute or so he was content in the silence, in the shelter of the rest he allowed himself to take, and then -

    - he cracked an eye open, and his curiosity got the better of him. “What are you working on? More from the Senate?”

    “My duties are being well handled in my absence,” Padmé shook her head. “I've already heard from Jar Jar and Moteé today; now, it's nice to just be able to relax.”

    At that, his curiosity was piqued all the more so. His wife was not hiding from him, per se, but he could feel the bright spark of her anticipation. She was waiting for him to understand something.

    Now fully alert, he opened both eyes and peered down to ask, “Then what are you working on, love?” Yet, even as he spoke, he understood the list she was scrolling through. Just as -

    “ - baby names,” Padmé revealed. “We can't call the twins Son and Daughter indefinitely, now can we?”

    Anakin gave an unwitting shudder at her words. “No,” he agreed. “Most definitely not.”

    Padmé tilted her head back to look up at him. “Have you thought of any?” she wondered aloud.

    “Well, not really . . . not yet,” he was shamed to answer. Fatherhood was never an idea he'd entertained beyond the vaguest idea of their life together after the war. And, since she'd told him of her pregnancy . . .”You've had longer than me to adjust to this – everything is still very new to me,” Anakin deflected to say. “What do you have so far?”

    Padmé's smile was wry. “I'm just glad that you're here to decide with me – there were days when I thought I'd have to name them on my own.” She closed her eyes, and at the tired sort of sorrow he could feel bubble up in her spirit – an all too familiar echo from during the war – he tightened his grip about her. He was here now, and he would not let her go.

    “Maybe,” she tapped her stylus at the 'pad, and Anakin recognized her own short-hand next to the generated list of suggestions, “something after your mother?”

    At first, the idea brought a happy, honored flush to Anakin's heart. Yet, shame was quick on the heels of his pride, and he knew . . .

    “I don't think I deserve that . . . not yet,” he was very quiet to say. He was initially going to keep the thought to himself, but the words bubbled up from his tongue without his conscious approval. He recovered himself: “Let's not put the weight of the dead on the living.”

    Even so, Padmé's eyes narrowed. She understood his rejoinder for what it was, and, with a vague sort of certainty, he understood that she would not let the matter rest. It was an argument that she would resurrect later, when she thought he could better handle it. “Okay,” she allowed. “Not for the twins, then.”

    The simple trust inherent in her words – the promise of another child, somewhere down the line – was enough to level Anakin, and he was glad that he was sitting. He would not have been able to remain standing. In that moment, the quiet foreboding of his visions seemed very far away, indeed.

    “For another child, then,” Anakin's voice was raw to say. He looked down at her list, wanting to distract himself, and was drawn to the words in High Naboo she had chosen. There, the first one to catch his eye was: “Luke?” He tried the word out loud, and felt a sense of rightness resonate with the simple syllable. “Luke,” he sampled its sound again, and felt the Force hum around him for his choice. Luke Skywalker. He liked the flow of it.

    “It means light,” Padmé tapped on the name to say. “It's bringer, to be more specific. Like the dawn.”

    The Force all but swirled, pleased and insistent, even as Anakin inclined his head to say, “The galaxy could use a little more light, that's for sure.”

    “It was one of the first names I considered,” Padmé revealed, clearly happy with their progress. “It's one of my favourites.”

    “Luke,” Anakin tried again for the simple joy of saying the name out loud – nearly certain that they would not find a better one. “Luke Skywalker. You know what . . . I think I like it.” It's perfect, he knew.

    “Luke Skywalker,” Padmé too tried the name with a joyous, dazzling grin, and the hand that was not holding the 'pad fell to her stomach. Her eyes widened as she felt one of the babies kick; Anakin did not need her to tell him so – he could feel it too.

    “I think that he approves,” Anakin was delighted to say.

    “I believe he does,” Padmé's face was alight with a soft, wondrous sort of awe. She shook her head as his organic hand came to cover her own, still marveling over the aspects of the Force that she could not completely understand, only appreciate for what they were.

    “Now then,” a moment later, her brows knit together in a familiar look of concentration, “for our daughter . . .”

    Anakin peered over her shoulder, and as the rain picked up in intensity, a thought hit him. “What is the word for water?” he asked.

    “Wakloo,” Padmé answered after a moment's searching. The corners of her mouth drew up in amusement.

    Anakin wrinkled his nose. That was not what he was looking for at all. “No,” he did not have to know Padmé's thoughts on the matter to decide. “We'll keep looking.”

    “We'll know the right one when we see it,” Padmé agreed, and together, they continued looking through the list as the rain fell down beyond them.



    .

    .

    The storms broke in time to let the colors of the sunset through, burning the high ridges of the clouds with flame and gilding the still glistening sheen left by the rain with gold. Anakin left his wife dozing on the couch to step out onto the terrace, breathing in the clean, heavy scent of the sodden flowers and the swollen lake. Then, a decision made in his mind, he thumbed on his wrist-comm, and patched a transmission through to Obi-Wan.

    “Obi-Wan,” he found his path clear even as he chose it, “. . . there's a matter that's been troubling me. Get a med droid and your commander . . . there's something you need to do for him, and have analyzed after . . . I have a bad feeling about this.”



    ~MJ @};-
     
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  14. RX_Sith

    RX_Sith C&G Game Host star 5 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2006
    Great that they both decided on Luke quickly, so hopefully Leia won't be too much longer to have as the daughter's name.
     
  15. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Feb 25, 2010
    Wow. That whole first scene was very telling of Anakin’s, Ahsoka’s, and Rex’s relationship, but I just loved this bit:

    Like they had all seen things no one should have seen, but especially Ahsoka given her age, then to throw her out on her own. I really liked that you have included her because I think she had played a key role in the story of Anakin’s turn.

    I just like how Anakin is still trying to figure everything out on his own and how Padme is there to remind him to take a break and breathe and remind him that his ‘lighter’ duties as father are just as important too.

    I really liked this line!

    AND THE PROMISE OF MORE CHILDREN. That just made me smile. Like they have a future now, together! AND THE NAMING OF LUKE WAS JUST SO CUTE!

    But the end. Gah. Why do I have a bad feeling about this? At least he is bringing Obi-Wan on board.
     
  16. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Such a beautiful story. I've finally gotten a chance to sit down and read it, and it was worth the wait. Anakin and Padme's relationship has flowered here in Naboo, and they have become closer to each other because of it. The idea of the events of the Clone Wars casting a shadow over the couple is a very interesting development that isn't explored in the movies at all (obviously) but since they are such a huge part of Anakin's life, it makes sense that the wars would intrude even into the quiet villa on the lake shore.
     
  17. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Finally caught up on this, and still enjoying it very much! :)

    Gosh, it's just one thing after another for Anakin these days... besides his own impending transition to fatherhood, there's the readjustment to his all-grown-up former padawan, as well as the dark, foreboding questions surrounding these mysterious biochips and Jango's real agenda in agreeing to be the clone host... and I think I can smell what is cooking there, because if so [hl=black]Order 66 could indeed be construed as the ultimate Mandalorian revenge on their hereditary Jedi enemies[/hl] (maybe this is the Legends point you mentioned at the top—I wouldn't know). And of course the shadow of Sheev continues to hang over everything. It's kind of as though everything's coming to a head for Anakin, slowly but surely—or, perhaps, in Force terminology, a shatterpoint.

    I have to say, Padmé and Anakin's baby naming discussion is much nicer than what ROTS gives us with Padmé simply repeating the last syllable of two or what the midwife droid says. Even if your husband is a closeted Sith Lord, there's just no way something like this

    You clued us in to the AU nature of the story a few comments ago, and now that we're at this, the midpoint of the story, it's looking like the AU could go a couple of different ways. We started with Vader dreaming of his previous life as Anakin, and now we have Anakin dreaming of being the cloaked and hooded Vader commanding all those troopers. His dreams, of course, are of course the red thread running through the story, to the point where the boundaries between the dreams and the "regular" narration almost become blurred, and I'm now wondering how much of the "regular" story is itself a dream. I'll be very curious to see where that goes, and how the AU works itself out—and I fully expect that it will be not what I expect at all! :D But in a good way, of course. :cool:
     
  18. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Sorry that I missed commenting on Part II of your fic. And that I only got to read Part III tonight.

    The Naberrie family life that you show us is wonderful. Actually, you give us all the things that we missed in the PT and the CW. Thank you!

    Our Obi-Wan is also were warm and thoughtful, not arrogant in the least. The part with Dooku, mentioning him as the great-grandfather of Anakin by Jedi tradition, was creepy. It really makes it the family feud, that Palpatine mentions somewhere in canon or legends.

    And bringing Galidraan into the story is a brilliant move, too. @};-
     
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  19. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Anakin may have retreated (however temporarily) from his galactic responsibilities, but this post makes it clear that he can't really leave them entirely behind, and particularly after he follows the Force's guidance, and starts thinking on the clones' biochips. We know, as the audience, too well what their purpose is from ROTS--but before now, I don't think I had ever much considered what the official reasoning for them might have been. I have to raise an eyebrow at the Kaminoans' explanation--it's pretty obvious what position they hold on the nature v. nurture debate. As Anakin knows, the clones may be genetically identical to Jango Fett--but they are not him. They are their own individuals.

    Anakin's research on Jango Fett leads him to the one deciding question--why would this man, who has every reason to despise the Jedi, and on a matter of honor, ever help them, no matter the credits involved? Once again, he has come very close to what I suspect is the very ugly truth. I shall have to wait and see what he learns from Obi-Wan. But oh yes: he should have a bad feeling about those chips.

    I have only seen two episodes of The Clone Wars, so I can't say that I know Ahsoka or Rex well, but I know who they are. I'm not familiar enough with Legends, and know naught of The New Canon, so I couldn't remotely say which bits are from which (and I definitely did not know that any of the clones had their chips removed--is that part of the AU, or did it actually happen?), but they all make sense enough in the context of the story that it doesn't matter.

    And to return to the AU aspect of the story: in his dream--if it is a dream--Anakin has another dream, of his life as Darth Vader. (I gather that is a reference to events in Rogue One). Once again, I'll have to wait and see how this plays out to see if that matters. There is one other thing I thought of--and it may not even be relevant: I already mentioned that the fact that Anakin knows Padmé is expecting twins is the one thing that gave me pause as to when the AU, or the dream, begins. But then I remembered that in the original trilogy Vader only discovered that he had a son. He wouldn't know of Luke's twin sister (who he never mentions by name) until shortly before his death.

    (And I will note in their naming conversation--and I believe there was a scene on this matter that was cut from ROTS--they don't come up with a name for the female twin. Perhaps that matters, perhaps not.)

    I can't say that I really have any guesses on most of the above. While I am looking forward to seeing Padmé and Anakin "come clean" and finally start being open about their relationship (and you indicated that they will)--for the rest, I'm content to just wait and read and find out.
     
  20. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Wow, thanks so much for the awesome feedback, everyone! You guys are fantastic. [:D]


    Not much longer at all. [face_love] Thanks for reading!


    The dynamic of Anakin and Ahsoka and the 501st just killed me dead in TCW, so it was really interesting to further explore their bond at this point in time - especially where Ahsoka is concerned. She may have been a Jedi, but that doesn't erase the fact that she was a child soldier who lived through and saw quite a bit - and then she went off to survive on her own in a war-torn galaxy at only sixteen, just like you said. I adore her character, and her role in Anakin's fall was one that I was all sorts of impressed with the writers for orchestrating. I couldn't not include her here. [face_love] (And I just may need to do a companion piece to this story with her - this 'verse is growing in my mind, and now I want to type it out. 8-}[face_hypnotized])

    I just heard Hamilton in my head, which was the best. :p Honestly, these hero folks need to remember how to sit back and breathe sometimes. They're only human, too. [face_love]

    I am all for more Skybabies!! I will let them have all of the happiness here, I will. [face_love]

    I thank you for reading, as always! [:D]


    Welcome to this crazy little what-if, it's wonderful to see you here! This has been an interesting story to flesh out, that's for certain - for the reasons you mentioned and more, and I hope that you continue to enjoy it as it goes. :) [:D]


    Anakin has a full plate, that's for certain! He has a few tangled threads to sort out in his mind - but he's dealing with the hurdles in his way as best as he can . . . which is already steering him far and away from the path he was on in RoTS. ;)

    Then, that is indeed the Legends bit I was referring to! The way that Order 66 comes full circle fascinates me, especially with its implications of Mandalorian revenge - but the complexities of Jango and Dooku's backstory and the entire Galidraan mess was hand-waved by TCW, and Jango was instead described by Mandalore's Prime Minister as "just a criminal wearing stolen armor." I find that story supremely lacking in comparison - unless that was just Satine's government trying to discredit the memory of a man who was, at one time, her rival for power. There is that. [face_thinking]

    Exactly! We lost out on the potential of so many parenting moments in RoTS, and it felt . . . right to give them the opportunity to consciously name Luke and Leia here. [face_love]

    [face_mischief][face_mischief] That's the fun thing about dealing with dreams and what-ifs - there are so many roads to chose from as an author . . . [face_thinking]

    I'm thrilled to hear that you are still enjoying this, and I hope that you continue to do so! I thank you again for your wonderfully thought out comments - they are truly a delight to read. [:D]


    Oh, we all have RL going on at the same time, and there are so many fantastic things to read and keep track of on the boards! I thank you for your lovely comments now. [:D]

    I couldn't not include the Naberrie family! They really were swept aside in the PT, but it's nice to know that Padme - and Anakin, by extension - has a life and a support system outside of the larger sphere of galactic events the primary plots focus on. Sometimes you need to show those down to earth, human connections to help tell the bigger picture. [face_love]

    It really is downright Shakespearean when you think about it, I agree - especially knowing that these Master/Padawan lines are the only family a Jedi is allowed to have. :(

    Galidraan is such an excellent plotline to explain both Dooku and Jango - so I will admit to clinging to that bit of Legends! I'm glad that you enjoyed it too. [face_love][:D]


    Eugh, the Kaminoans have zero interest in nurturing sentient beings, that's for sure. o_O They set out to create a perfect, lethal product, so they did. [face_plain] Anakin, with his own background on Tatooine, has to be more disturbed by that than not - especially with how much he is clearly shown to care for his men. But, more about that later. [face_whistling]

    Then, there is a plot arch in TCW where one of Anakin's troopers, Fives (everyone's fan-favourite, pretty much), discovers the truth behind the biochips and tries to tell Anakin. But, Anakin gets rather . . . enraged at the implication that Palpatine is involved and/or complacent in the conspiracy, and refused to hear him out. Fives didn't live long enough to prove what he knew before Palpatine's clone guard gunned him down. It was so, so frustrating to see them get so close to the truth and then completely miss the mark. But if Anakin had slowed down and asked a few more questions, a lot of the heartache in Ep. III could have been subverted. :( So, I suppose that's what I was trying to do here - get him to slow down and actually think about things. Which is easier said than done where Anakin is concerned. But the poor dear is trying. :p

    (That episode arch is at the very beginning of Season 6, and one of the show's best. It can stand alone all on its own if you ever wanted to check it out. I highly recommend it. [face_love])

    Both Ahsoka and Rex hold special places in my heart, so I had to add them here - especially for how much they both mean to Anakin! [face_love] And then . . .

    It is canon that Rex removed his chip. He believed Fives when Anakin did not, we can assume - Fives was one of the men Rex saw go from rookie to ARC-trooper, and after surviving three years on the front-lines together they had a special bond. In the Ahsoka novel, Rex, being without his chip, was able to help Ahsoka escape Order 66 when her troops turned on her, and he claimed her kill so that the Empire didn't bother looking for her. She buried her lightsabers and he buried his armor with another clone in it so that he could abandon his post. He shows up again in Rebels, old before his time, to help the Rebellion once again. There are two other clones with him - Wolffe, whose chip (and the entire right side of his face) was destroyed by Ventress, and Gregor, who clearly has some sort of brain damage that must have affected the chip too. :(

    There is that, isn't there? [face_mischief] That answer, when it comes, will be a simple one - but it will open the door to a lot more where Vader is concerned, and that's all I'll say on the matter. :p

    I love that you are thinking so deeply about this, by the way. As an author, I can't tell you how invaluable such feedback is, and I truly thank you for taking the time to write out your thoughts!

    There will most certainly be no more secrets left at the end of this, I don't mind saying. For the rest of it, I am thrilled to hear that you are enjoying this, and I hope that you continue to do so as the plot progresses . . . :)



    For everyone else who left likes, or is simply lurking, I thank you all for reading too! [:D]

    Now, on with the next part . . .


    ~MJ@};-
     
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  21. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Notes: In typical fashion, my muse got long-winded and I had to cut this part in two. So, we're now looking at seven parts in total . . . I think. ;)

    Enjoy. :)






    IV

    The following day saw to the end of the 41st's primary engagement on Kashyyyk, just as Obi-Wan departed from Utapau for the capital. After ensuring that the loose ends regarding his campaign were seen to, Yoda too would return to Coruscant, and Obi-Wan would then join his fellow Masters of the Order in requesting that Palpatine put aside his war-time powers.

    Yet, until then . . .

    “Cody was not happy to be pulled from overseeing the Separatists' rout – what little of it remained, that was,” Obi-Wan updated him while the Vigilance waited in orbit above Coruscant for their landing clearance. His eyes were tired, but a smile ghosted across his mouth as he added, “Crys, however, was all too happy to assume the burden of command – perhaps overly so.”

    Anakin cracked a grudging half-smile; he was familiar enough with the dynamics of the 212th to find the idea amusing. But he remained silent, and waited for the elder Jedi to continue. He knew Obi-Wan's diversionary tactics for what they were: the faint crinkling at the corners of his eyes and the way he thoughtfully stroked his beard spoke more loudly than any words. He was troubled, and deeply so.

    With a patience he did not truly feel, Anakin waited; mentally, he prepared himself.

    “But,” Obi-Wan did not allow the silence to last, “what's done is done. His chip is removed, and I cannot help but feel . . .” he lifted his hand from his chin to sweep back the fringe of his hair in a restless gesture. He was clearly unsettled, and the hologram rippled with interference to match. “I feel as if I have just stepped away from a knife, truth be told. There's a weight that's no longer present overhead – one that I had not even noticed before now . . . and its absence troubles me for what it may portend.”

    Anakin frowned, but understood what Obi-Wan was trying to say. He himself had never felt the vague sense of dormant threat danger that many of his fellow Jedi initially sensed from their troops – a puzzling feeling that even Obi-wan had admitted to early on in the war, before he bonded with his battalion in the thick of combat. For Anakin, his men had always felt as hounds following him into the hunt, leaping at his side instead of snapping at his throat. He did not have to learn to trust them over time.

    “Did you have the chip analyzed?” Anakin shook his head to clear his thoughts, troubling as they were. He blinked against the heralding flashes of blue and white he remembered from his visions, and shifted his attention to the present.

    “Yes,” Obi-Wan nodded in the affirmative. He too recovered his focus to deal with the matter at hand. “The Utapauns were all too happy to express their gratitude, and offered up what resources they had to aid my search. Their technology was somewhat crude, however, so I'll no doubt find out more when we run our own tests at the Temple . . . but I can tell you, at the very least, that the chips are receiving an active pulse. They have the ability to command; they are not simply inhibitors.”

    “An active pulse?” Anakin repeated, puzzled. “From Kamino?”

    “That is the curious part,” Obi-Wan's gaze locked on his through the blue field. “The source of the signal comes from here - from Coruscant. I could not pinpoint its exact origins with the equipment available to me on Utapau; the chip's encryption was too strong to break.”

    Coruscant? Anakin frowned. Besides the GAR headquarters and the Jedi themselves, there was nothing connecting the clones to the capital. If there was anything like what Obi-Wan was implying coming from official channels, the Jedi would already know about it.

    . . . wouldn't they?

    He clenched his jaw, and tried to make sense of the matter in his mind, feeling as his thoughts slipped over and about each other without finding any sort of definitive purchase. The Force swirled, but he merely grit his teeth and narrowed his eyes at its presence: what a great help you're being, he wanted to grumble, and felt as his senses filled fit to burst with the pressure he felt urging him onwards.

    Slowly, he took in a deep breath. His frustration would get him nowhere fast, he had to consciously remind himself, and his anger had no place - not then. Not there.

    “For the time being, it's mostly a static pulse,” Obi-Wan continued. Even across the distance, Anakin could feel the almost reflexive offering of peace calm his former Master extended through their bond. “But, when - if ever - the signal is concentrated . . . the structure of the chip and its location in the frontal lobe of the brain has the potential to completely override any sort of free-will in our men. It will destroy their autonomy, and they will be powerless to resist any command given to them.”

    The very idea of it made his stomach roll, and bile rose in his throat. He . . . he remembered some of the slavers on Tatooine who had similar such tech installed in their more . . . troublesome merchandise. Unruly property who still had too much worth to their masters otherwise were often fit with such implants, and Anakin fought the urge he had to flinch as he remembered more than one cybernetically controlled slave he had known. Watto had even threatened to do the same to him once or twice, when his moods were snappish following bad days at the races. Even though the threat had no real teeth to it, the fact remained that his master could have done so if he wished. He would have had no choice in the matter; just as his men now did not. It was always messy implanting inorganic tech in a mature, sentient brain, at that, and he knew . . .

    They must have grown with these chips . . . they were implanted at an embryonic level. It's the only way the technology is so seamless. It's the only way we haven't notice them before now.

    This went back to the beginning, then – to the original commission of the army, of which they still knew but frustratingly little. Anakin felt as if he had more questions than answers, and what answers he did have . . .

    “How's Cody doing?” he asked, even as his thoughts continued to spin. He could feel the gears in his inorganic hand whirl and clench; he had to force the terse line of his jaw to relax.

    “He's well, as far as I can tell. He has questions, however . . . questions I am not sure how to answer. For now, he trusts me enough to understand that I have reasons for maintaining my silence.” Fondness softened Obi-Wan's words before his expression sobered. His eyes narrowed. “Then . . . I am not sure what, precisely, I should be looking for,” he confessed. “This whole matter has my nerves on edge.”

    That, at least, Anakin could well agree with: their need to act was touched with the urgency of protect and defend. Only, he was not quite sure just who - or what - they were endeavoring to shield from harm. Everything, a nameless dread in the Force whispered, and Anakin swallowed back a sour taste. Everyone.

    “You don't need to worry overly much.” That, at least, Anakin could assure with some confidence. “Rex has gone without his chip since the incident with . . . ” but he still could not say Fives' name aloud. Especially not then. He pressed his lips together, and had to try again, “For months, I have noticed no change in his behavior. He's still as loyal as he ever was; there's not a command I have given that he's hesitated to obey.”

    “But he's your captain,” Obi-Wan dryly pointed out. “If this goes where I think it's going . . . could you say the same of a new batch at the bottom of the ranks, fresh from Kamino?”

    It's how every other army in the galaxy has to work – they have to earn the loyalty of their men and prove their right to lead. But the thought was an old thought to Anakin's mind, steeped in anger and frustration for his own complacency in the use of the clone army. So, he swallowed his retort, and instead reasoned, “There's too much about the clones that we are still guessing about, and the Kaminoans are too unhelpful in answering those questions for my taste . . . but we do know that the Sith have had their hands in this from the beginning. I still do not agree with the Council's decision to remain silent on the matter, and for where our conclusions are heading . . . ” but his words tapered off, and he frowned. The ultimate conclusion was there, right there on the tip of his tongue, only he could not yet -

    “I can look into a way to deactivate the signal,” after a long pause, Obi-Wan hazarded to say. “I have some contacts I can reach out to - it's worth a shot. I'll see if Master Ti has anything more to say on the matter, as well – she has long held her tongue, but I know that she has thoughts and suspicions that she cannot share . . . or rightly prove.” Obi-Wan sighed, a deep and weary sound from his chest. “I will need her backing if I take the idea of decommissioning the chips to the Council.”

    Anakin felt his ire rise at the idea of the Council continuing to play politics when there were sentient beings underneath their command who needed their protection. He felt his lips draw back from his teeth, but before he could say something in an all too familiar flash of temper -

    “ - oh, do not think that I am completely sold on the idea myself,” Obi-Wan warned, well able to read him by his expression alone. “You have to remember that I faced Jango Fett, and you did not – the last thing I want is for a million men with his skills suddenly given independent thinking and unchecked aggression. We must be canny, and we must be cautious. Yet,” he nonetheless admitted, “the Force is urging me on this matter, as well . . . and it has been unclear about too many things as of late to be ignored.”

    Anakin drew in a deep breath through his nose, and let it out slowly through his mouth. When he spoke, his voice was level to remind, “The war is winding to a close. One way or another, we are going to have to figure out what to do about the clones who live through to the end. This is just a step in the right direction.”

    “Yes . . . indeed.” No matter his more realistic acceptance of the Republic's political landscape, Obi-Wan's eyes glittered with a hard edge to agree. Soon, they would have a battle of another kind to wage, yet it was one Anakin only knew anticipation for: let it come.

    Yet, they had a path forking in the road before them. Troubled, Anakin stared down the immaterial destinations their choices would lead to and knew that, for one decision or another . . .

    - but his thoughts were interrupted by a swift spike of discomfort agony echoing through the Force. He felt the spasm of pain as a shadow of things to come, as a warning, and he knew -

    His worry was a sudden swell in the Force, a tempestuous rise of power that grew to swirl about him in an almost tangible outpouring of pulsating energy. He thought he knew where the sensation originated from, and with a sudden burst of terror he understood: today was the day of his dreams. Now, one way or another . . .

    . . . he would have all of his family or none of them by the day's end. Either way, the moment had arrived.

    Obi-Wan clearly felt the rise of his fears. He took a step back before grounding himself and leaning forward as if he could reach out through the transmission and place a physical hand on his shoulder. “Anakin . . .” he started lowly, carefully. His voice was pitched to sooth, and the warmth he pushed towards him through their bond rippled across his senses.

    “Master,” somehow, Anakin found his voice. It was a raw, dry sound to his own ears. “I . . . I have to go now.”

    “Anakin,” Obi-Wan said again, this time in a stronger tone. His presence was a calm spot amidst the sudden storm of anxiety and roiling energy that threatened to consume him. Anakin could not breathe against the growing dynamism of the Force - instinctively surging in response to his panic with a maelstrom of trapped vigor ability might. The potency of the power then waiting at his fingertips was overwhelming, humbling and terrifying and intoxicating all at once. It was too much. “Anakin? I will be right there.”

    His voice was firm; steady. Anakin tried to latch on to the certainty he promised, and make it his own.

    “Obi-Wan . . . I don't know if . . . ” He swallowed against the plaintive sound of his voice - as if he was a child uncertain of his way all over again. He closed his eyes, and focused on the furious tattoo of his heart, on the rapid pulse of his blood. He tried to fill his lungs deep with air and breathe, but his control was a perilous thing.

    “I will be right there, Anakin,” Obi-Wan's voice was a low, forceful sound, cutting through the haze of power attempting to consume him. “Now concentrate, my friend, and find your wife. You are going to become a father today.”



    .

    .

    When he was at last able to move, Anakin followed his senses and burst into the kitchen to find Padmé hunched over the sink. She had one hand pressed against her swollen abdomen, and her eyes were clenched tightly shut. She only blinked as another intense burst of discomfort pain ebbed to take on a stillness that was all the calm surface of a sea over a churning deep-water current beneath. Her pain was merely muted, Anakin understood; it had not passed in its entirety. But, for the moment, it was letting her breathe.

    “Padmé?” His voice wavered, and he hated the fear it conveyed as he came to stand by her side. He placed his hands on her shoulders, and felt as she shifted to gratefully lean her weight against him.

    She took in a deep breath, and let it out slowly. When she looked up, her eyes were clear; determination burned in her gaze.

    “I think my water broke,” Padmé stated matter-of-factly. She was much too calm for Anakin's psyche to process; his brain stuttered to make sense of her words.

    This was too early, he thought – though only days so, he next forced himself to reason. She'd been having false contractions on and off again since they first reached Naboo – it was a natural part of any pregnancy, he'd been told, but now, this time . . .

    . . . this was no false alarm, he knew with a building certainty. This was real.

    “Okay, then,” Anakin tried to find his voice. “We'll just . . .” but his thoughts were hurling past him, too wild and panicked for him to wholly process. He knew that they had a plan - there was something he should be doing. But all he could see was his dream: the cries of his wife and the cries of his children and the dark, yawning nothingness that would linger where once she had shone with such a light -

    “ - Anakin,” Padmé's voice was a sharp crack of sound. “Ani, I need you to concentrate, and breathe.”

    At last, the absurdity of her words pierced through the downward spiral of his thoughts. Anakin struggled to focus on her voice, on her presence, right there and alive next to him. He hadn't lost her, and he yet would not. He took a deep breath in, and struggled to exhale.

    “Shouldn't I be the one telling you that?” he tried to quip, but his voice sounded thin. He could not manage a smile to match.

    Padmé's eyes only narrowed - not at him, he knew, but at any fate that would think to take her from her family that day. She reached out, and the hand clutching at his arm squeezed with a steady strength. “I'm telling you that you have to breathe - and focus. The children . . . they don't feel right when you're not calm . . . so I need you to be calm. This is already hard enough as it is, and they're scared – I know they are. Please, do this for me; for us.”

    He was hurting his wife . . . he was hurting his children. Few things were able to bank the black heat rising within him better than that. With an inhuman force of will, he calmed himself. His brain shuddered to make room for rational thought, but at last he prevailed over himself and his senses cleared. He would not be the factor that made this day impossible for Padmé to bear; he would not be the fulfillment of his own vision, he would not.

    “Yes, of course . . . I am sorry,” Anakin shook his head again. His panic and anger and pain were all there, right there beneath the surface, but they no longer threatened to consume him. He breathed in spite of them. “Then . . . I'll just . . .”

    They had a plan, he was still trying to remember. It was time to follow that plan. Only . . . he could not remember what it was he was supposed to do next. He had commanded and survived a hundred campaigns on too many worlds to mention, yet the relatively simple schematics of helping his wife as countless men had done before him was proving to be -

    “ - you need to get the speeder started,” Padmé gently reminded him. “Sabé is grabbing my bag. My family will meet us in Theed. Everything else is ready.”

    Anakin frowned. “Do we have time - ”

    “ - labor is not as quick as it is on the holovids, Ani,” Padmé's voice was touched with a resigned sort of dark humor. “We have time. Hours, even.”

    Right – right. He knew that. Of course he did.

    “Anakin - ” she tried one more time to reach him, but no . . . no. He would not be a further stress to her; it was time for him to take care of her.

    “ - I'm okay, love, don't worry about me,” Anakin assured her. He leaned down to kiss her already clammy brow, and ran a shaky hand over the softness of her hair. Firmly, he told himself that he was not memorizing her. “This is about you now; I'm going to take care of you – all of you.”

    He could feel Padmé's eyes close, and when she returned the embrace her fingertips curled in the fabric of his tunic – the only sign she gave that she too shared his worst fears, before she drew away.

    For better or worse, it was time.



    .

    .

    Anakin's exposure to laboring women was as admittedly scarce as it was, for the most part, a thing of his past.

    His mother had known a small share of medical skills, and acted as a midwife for the few pregnant slave-girls she could. Mostly, through the haze of his youth, Anakin remembered that the process was long . . . and it was loud. As a child, he'd learned to be ready with clean towels and hot water and what disinfectant sprays they could procure, but there had always been a sort of detachment to his curiosity. Now . . .

    . . . now, the process was different when it was his wife, his children, who -

    “ - is this . . . is everything . . .” he found himself reaching out and grasping Jobal's arm for the umpteenth time as she made to pass, and his mother-in-law gave him a patient smile - again.

    “So far, everything is progressing naturally, dear,” Jobal nonetheless took the time to assure him. She reached up and briefly covered his hand with her own before turning to leave the suite and update the gathered Naberrie clan in the waiting room. “We would tell you the moment it is not,” she assured him as she left.

    Of course . . . of course. Logically, rationally, Anakin knew that, and yet . . .

    “The midwife is threatening to have you removed from the room. Your anxiety is producing negative vibes, she says,” even so, Padmé was able to summon a smile and whisper in a conspiratorial tone.

    “I'd like to see her try to move me,” Anakin fought to keep the growl from his voice at the idea. He was only marginally successful.

    “I don't know,” Padmé pretended to consider. Her brown eyes sparkled with a distracted sort of humor. “I think that my credits would be on - ”

    But another contraction seized her, and her words cut off with a wince and a low, pained exhalation of breath - no matter how she tried to keep the sound to herself. Anakin was instantly by her side and giving her a hand to grasp through the pain.

    In a queer way, he found some of his own fear ebbing as he trained his every sense on his wife and children. He could feel as her discomfort built and crested like a wave before crashing down and dispersing before starting all over again. But she still had time to rest and recover between contractions, and for a moment the dizzying pain he glimpsed from her abated. Padmé squeezed his fingers in an almost apologetic way when she could finally breathe again.

    “Okay,” she tried to regroup. “That one was worse.” She bit her lip, perhaps only then realizing just how monumental the task before her truly was, before frowning to stare doggedly ahead. He could feel a low, natural sort of protectiveness burn deep within her. Her instinctive determination to care for her young was already stronger than any physical discomfort she was experiencing, and he believed that it would remain that way.

    The idea that she had hours of this left to go was something that did not sit well with Anakin. Yet, for all of its intensity, her pain was a natural one. She repeatedly turned down the option of suppressants – not wanting to impair her body's ability to tell her if something was wrong by doing so, and instead grit her teeth and bore through her contractions as untold women before her had, and many more would after her. As the hours passed, Anakin - negated by biology to the pathetically useless role of support - simply held her hand, and tried to take what discomfort he could from her by way of the Force. In his own eyes there was but frustratingly little he could do, but he felt Padmé's relief that he was there to bear through her ordeal with her. She took strength from his presence in a way that still awed Anakin, as humbling and unbelievable as the idea that she loved him still sometimes was.

    If he had not been recalled to Coruscant, the thought was a distant, painful one, he could still be off obliviously fighting a war while she went through this alone . . .

    . . . he had not been with Padmé in his dreams, he then understood with a low whisper of knowing. Such a dark haze had clouded the entire event, suffocating the very air and choking the advent of life when the light should have been at its strongest. Yet, instead of such a pall, he then felt . . .

    “ - Anakin,” he heard a voice speak from the doorway of the suite, even as a familiar, serene presence pressed in on the edge of his senses. “You have a visitor.”

    He looked up to see that Sola had returned from her turn briefing the waiting room, and was expectantly looking to take his place by her sister's side. Anakin glanced at his wife, torn, but Padmé must have understood as well as he. She waved a hand, even as she winced as another contraction wracked through her body. “Go, go,” she encouraged him. “And tell Obi-Wan hello for me. Give my apologies that I'm too . . . indisposed to greet him myself.”

    If she was still coherent enough for humor, Anakin felt better about leaving her – but only marginally so. In the end it took both Jobal and Sola insisting, and he left only as Padmé took another turn wading in one of the shallow pools in the birthing suite to help sooth her pains. After assuring himself that he would not be missed for the time being, he left her with her family to find his Master.

    He did not have to say a word – even that all too familiar flush of guilt shame he still knew for betraying his vows as a Jedi was absent as Obi-wan swept him into an embrace and pushed a wave of warmth support calm to him through the Force. Anakin held on tightly, and simply breathed before letting the older man go.

    “How is she?” Obi-Wan asked, and at the worry in his eyes Anakin reminded himself that he too adored his wife, in his own way. Even without their newfound connection, he would have mourned had anything happened to her.

    “She is well, for now,” Anakin found his voice to answer. “As well as can be expected, anyway.” He felt unsteady in his skin as he fought the urge to return to her side. He did not like leaving her alone.

    “And you?” Obi-Wan asked next, and Anakin could read every question he did not utter aloud in the pointed blue-grey of his gaze.

    So, Anakin exhaled, and truthfully replied, “I am . . . I am trying to remain centered. The twins help - they're forcing me to remember my calm . . . they can sense me, and I don't want their fear burdening their mother. This is already enough of an ordeal as it is.”

    Slowly, Obi-Wan nodded, and Anakin could feel as he subtly probed their bond, looking for everything he could not say aloud with words. It felt cleansing . . . refreshing, even, to allow him to look unhindered. For the first time in years, Anakin did not have to bat his former Master away for fear of revealing his secrets. Instead, Anakin let him see what he would see, trusting that anything Obi-Wan unearthed for the ill was that which Anakin too found disquieting, and would work to clear from his consciousness. He could no longer be alone in the shadows of his own mind - not with the tempestuous nature of the power he had just waiting at his fingertips. Not with his family counting on him to do otherwise.

    “Alright, then,” Obi-Wan finally said, and at the flicker of approval Anakin thought to see in his eyes, his stance lost its unconscious stiffness. He exhaled in the Force, feeling a rush of pride course through him for his Master's pride in him. That simple, joyous warmth flashed stronger than his fear and doubt. For a moment, he found his balance. Everything would be okay, he thought to know then . . . one way or another everything would be okay. Even if the unthinkable happened - though the idea was still anathema to his mind - he would endure. He would live with his loss and even someday heal from it. In the meantime, he would be there for his children where their mother could not.

    He did not have to detach himself, as the Jedi preached - his clarity was a sudden, dizzying thing . . . instead, he just had to accept the ebb and flow that was the course of any sentient relationship over time. No matter what the future held, in that moment, he was prepared to face it. He was accepting of his fate, even if his reality turned out to be one he would not choose for himself if given the choice.

    Obi-Wan must have felt an echo of his understanding, for the smile he gave was small, and bittersweet. Anakin saw a glimpse from his mind's eye – of a severe, beautiful face with twinkling blue eyes – and knew that, in his own way, he understood.

    That was a conversation he would very dearly like to have with Obi-Wan later. Yet, until then: “I've brought a way to entertain ourselves, if you would indulge me,” Obi-Wan patted the satchel at his side. “I've heard that these things take . . . quite some time, and I've lost my best cu'bikad partner with Cody being down.”

    Anakin understood the distraction for the diversionary tactic it was, but he inclined his head to allow it. He flashed Obi-Wan a grateful smile. “If you're prepared to lose, Master,” he felt his teeth show, “then sure. I'm game.”

    “Careful, young one,” Obi-Wan's eyes glittered. “Don't think that I'll take it easy on you just because your wife is in labor.”

    “I wouldn't have it any other way,” Anakin pressed his hands together as Obi-Wan set the board up on one of the waiting room's tables. As he picked up his first knife, he found a sort of calm settle over him as he focused on the game rather than the play of life and death that he instinctively felt they were narrowly skirting with the events of the day.



    ~MJ @};-
     
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  22. RX_Sith

    RX_Sith C&G Game Host star 5 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2006
    I like how Obi-Wan was prepared with the game to pass the time while Padmé was in labor, but really, Anakin should be in the room with her.
     
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  23. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Feb 25, 2010
    First off, I love the mental image of Obi-Wan stroking his beard. There is something so quintessentially Obi-Wan about that action.

    Yes! I love Shaak Ti. She’s my favourite “background” Jedi Master and she doesn’t get enough love.

    AWWW! I love Obi-Wan’s support here and later on AND YES! YES! YES! The babies are coming!

    I just love how calm, practical and prepared Padmé is and how Anakin isn’t any of those things :p
     
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  24. Pandora

    Pandora Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Well, it looks as though Anakin has had an epiphany here, as Padmé goes through the labor he has dreamed of, and so feared--and one that I don't think he had at any moment during the canon saga. That there is nothing wrong with being attached to someone, but there are things that are out of your control (even when you are a Jedi a-glow with the Force). You love them, but when it is time to let them go, you let go. On a more practical note, I'm also glad to see, at least by my admittedly limited understanding, a more realistic depiction of pregnancy and labor--certainly more so than ROTS, though it would be hard not to be. (Rim-shot.) False labor pains do happen, and yes--particularly with a first pregnancy, labor can take its time.

    Then there is the darker matter of the clones' chips: when Obi-Wan lays out the details--or at the least, the ones that technology has revealed thus far--so bluntly, it's clear how awful they are. If Obi-Wan wasn't critical of the chips before, he certainly is now. And Anakin has, given his background as a slave, more personal reasons for being appalled. Slaves are already implanted with devices, so it is no surprise that slavers might use other sorts of invasive tech on their "unruly" slaves. The whole thing is rotten all around.

    I haven't watched The Clone Wars, but so far as I know, Anakin never made any connection between the clones and the slaves, though it is rather obvious when one thinks about it. He should have seen it. Of course, that may be because after TPM, Anakin's slave past was sort of dropped entirely, but that is another issue.

    Anyhow, it sounds as though Shaak Ti has some thoughts on the matter of the chips she has been keeping to herself--and I suppose we'll soon find out what conclusions she has to share with Obi-Wan.
     
  25. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    I love the way you're approaching this story, with Anakin trusting his oldest friend and brother-in-arms Obi-wan instead of hiding from him.

    I don't know much about The Clone Wars so I'm not sure if the implant is your invention or canon, but what an evil thing it is. To allow the clones to grow and develop their own identities and personalities and then snatch that away from them via an implant that they had since before they were born is just cruel. They only have the illusion of agency and independence.

    And now the twins are coming! Anakin realizes that he was never in the visions he saw of her (which would have been true in The Revenge of the Sith). Since he's here now, she doesn't have to suffer the same fate as his visions. Hopefully things go well for them all.

    another great update, and I'm looking forward to more!